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Why walking long distances in groups is becoming popular in Mombasa

 Kenyans walk in groups as they head into and out of Nairobi CBD. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Major Idris, former personal assistant and aide to the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is a political animal to the core. He eats, sleeps and dreams politics. His blood group is "Orange". In 2013, he became the political advisor to Governor Hassan Ali Joho and in 2020 he joined me as my campaign manager as I prepared to bid for the governorship of Mombasa.

So, in late 2022 after we closed the books of the aborted campaign of 2022, he suddenly emerged with a Mombasa Walk Movement. He started leading people in walking long distances from one corner of the town to the other. They walked almost 20km every Saturday.

With his group of walkers, he looks like Tom Hanks in the movie "Forrest Gump". Nobody believed that this walk "movement" was purely an exercise idea. Being Shahbal's campaign manager automatically made everything he did look suspiciously political.

First, it was a few people walking with him, then it became a few dozen then it became a flood of thousands. Soon corporate sponsors started supporting his movement. It is now the biggest movement in Mombasa and politicians have all embraced and participated in it. I have avoided joining the walk because I did not want to increase concerns that this was my political movement and more important, I don't like the 5am starting time.

I was in Bujumbura recently and it was refreshing to see hundreds of people walking together. Then they would stop on top of a hill and stretch and exercise to the sound of dance music blaring from a jukebox. I have seen people practicing Tai Chi in China early in the morning and in the evenings, and in Mediterranean Europe it is common to see people dancing in the streets for fun and exercise. It is only in Africa that exercise is rarely a joint public exercise.

Major Idris has started something unique in Mombasa and I hope this movement will spread out across Kenya. He encourages his groups to start smaller walk movements which walk daily. Its spreading very fast. They recently walked to the Governor's office and presented a petition asking him to declare some areas as walking areas only and to stop cars on Saturdays to encourage people to walk. I live in Shanzu and work in Mombasa which is 20-something kilometre - so you are not getting my support on that!

There is no doubt that walking is one of the best exercises that one can do. It is gentle on the body and one can walk at his own pace. Walking out in the open air and breathing fresh air is better than working out in the gym anytime. There are also no charges for walking in the open.

Many doctors recommend walking as the best exercise and suggest at least 30 minutes' walk per day. Many phones now have step counters and recommend walking at least 10,000 steps per day. I know the benefits of walking as I often find that a few days of walking improves my fitness levels and reduces the belly fat that always comes back after a few days of no exercise.

There are many people who have already posted photos of themselves before and after they started walking and show off bodies that have become lean and fit. It's good for the body, the mind and self-esteem. It's very encouraging. Many of the walkers have expressed deep appreciation for improving their fitness and general wellbeing.

One or two of the youngsters have even announced that their "social connections" have improved, and one claims to have found love on the road! Without doubt, the Walk Movement has given Mombasa a new fresh face.

There is no doubt that walking has enormous health benefits. Just google on the health effects and you will see thousands of articles on the benefits of walking. There is a direct correlation on walking with lower blood pressure, stress, increased energy and productivity. Keep on walking!

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