Keeping the body ticking and the mind alive during the pandemic

rammy Award winner Ricky Key (left) with Lonnie Park (right) singing for Walk The Talk - ‘We’re In This Together’

“It's time to get moving. Exercise is so good for you. It's good to walk, it's good to breathe deeply, and you can do it in your house, but stay healthy. I'm going to get up, I'm going outside. I'm going to do my walk and walk the talk,” said US-based rhythm and blues artist Kim Sledge.

Sledge was among the dozens of musicians, athletes, fitness coaches, and mental health experts who came together this weekend to lead some 16 million people from around the globe in WHO’s third Walk the Talk: The Health for All Challenge.

Along with building bodies, the two-day virtual event was a rousing lead-up to the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) that opens Monday in its first-ever virtual session. The meeting of WHO´s 194 member states opens in the sober shadow of the political rift that has marked US-Chinese relations of late, including tensions over China´s early management of the Covid-19 pandemic and Taiwan´s request for observer status at the WHA.

Moving across time zones, Walk the Talk began Saturday in WHO´s Western Pacific Regional Office in The Philippines and concluded on Sunday in Geneva, with a 5-hour jam-packed virtual programme hosted by WHO Headquarters. It boasted a vibrant range of physical activities and live chats with experts to get people moving for their own health and that of others.

The 30 interactive events for all ages, ranged from a mood-lifting concert with Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej, to sessions in art therapy; cooking; dance, cycling, and yoga.

There was also a “paper ball at home” game that you can play in your living room, hosted by the International Basketball Federation, and a warm up activity that you can do in just a few meters of space, led by the Geneva-based Servette field hockey team.

Lack of adequate physical activity is the fourth largest driver of early mortality - and risks of inactivity have increased in the wake of stay-at-home measures that are still in place in many parts of the world. Physical inactivity is responsible for 1 in 4 breast and color cancers, as well as almost 30% of diabetes and 30% of ischaemic heart disease, according to WHO.

As people globally adapt to new realities associated with Covid-19, which may include working from home, a period of unemployment, or homeschooling, it is ever more important that we look after our physical and mental health, said WHO’s director of Mental Health, Devora Kestel:

“Try to keep an eye on daily routines, as much as possible. Eat healthy meals, do some exercise, even if at home, and keep in touch with people you care about. Make sure that you make time for yourself to do things you enjoy doing. Don't be too hard on yourself, keep informed, keep yourself and your loved ones safe. More importantly, take care of yourself and be kind to one another.”

Health Policy Watch-Keeping the body ticking and the mind alive during the pandemic