Physical fitness and wellness has long been associated with the wealthy class, the elderly or people suffering from lifestyle diseases such as obesity. Statistics show that the level of obesity in Kenya is approaching 50% of the population as at 2018 with the most affected group being women between the ages of 19-49 years.
Jackie Nyaminde is a client at the Colosseum Fitness Centre. She says, “It’s really about staying fit and taking care of yourself. There are many diseases nowadays such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and back then we used to assume these diseases came with old age but that’s not the case.
“We see the youth suffering from obesity and other lifestyle diseases and therefore I think it’s important to watch your health, watch what you eat and a bit of exercise that will do the trick.”
The number of people affected by lifestyle diseases and those interested in health and wellness has grown significantly creating a work out culture especially among city dwellers.
“The gym culture in Kenya has grown. In the last few years, it was just a handful of people who took health and fitness seriously but with time I have seen a lot of people take interest in their health.
“Its exponential growth has come more people are becoming more aware of their health.” says Jeff Njuguna, a personal trainer at Colosseum Fitness Centre.
“Everyone comes into Bikram Yoga with a preconceived notion the only way to know what yoga is to go in and try it. One of the things I’ve found out is that Kenyans are really open minded and if you explain it to them, they come and try.
“People come out and are not afraid of the challenge like their flexibility and when we challenge ourselves we get a sense of pride and physical benefit,” says Karim Nathoo, the director of Bikram Yoga.
Statistics indicate that bullying prevalence is at a high of 31% with the most common form being name calling among school going youth. The information age has also seen many become self-aware and conscious of behavioral patterns and what they eat.
“I started gyming about three years ago, I was really skinny and when I was doing my first degree in university I was picked on and bullied so I thought to put on some size so that people can respect me more,” Stanley a client at Colosseum Fitness Centre explains.
“The age group falls from around 24- 36 we have few people coming who are younger and some who are definitely older all the way up to 50’s but the largest group is in that age range,” adds Jeff Njuguna.
Middle class Kenyans have incorporated wellness into their spending culture, it is now common for families to budget for gym and wellness clubs subscriptions.
“It’s the way you pay your rent you never feel like no I’ll do this next time. You always feel like it’s an obligation and a responsibility you have to pay for it every single month,” adds Jackie.
With an increase in the number of Kenyans gaining interest in health and fitness, the wellness culture has gained ground in the country having Kenyans go to every cost to live a healthy lifestyle be it in a heated toga studio, a relaxing spa or in a sweaty gym.
“Jackie further adds, “I finish my shows at nine in the morning then after that I come to the gym. It’s the first thing after all my meetings. I never want to miss unless it’s something work related but if I miss I always want to make up for the lost days.”
Entrepreneurs keen on cashing in on the urban trend have invested in facilities. Gyms and workout studios have become a common feature of many city buildings fitted with state of the art equipment.
“Bikram yoga is a service that involves a lot of resources. We have highly trained teachers with long months of training. We heat the room, we have nice facilities and we have resources required for all that but we keep that in line with a high end gym” states Karim Nathoo.
Kenya being a major tourist destination, recorded a 16% growth in tourists coming into the country in 2019. Subsequently, the wellness sector has been boosted through incorporation of special wellness programs and well-equipped training institutions to attract more international tourists