Home » Physical activity – a path to better wellness for SA Youth

Physical activity – a path to better wellness for SA Youth

by Tia

Today’s youth are up against some serious challenges. Sometimes referred to as the ‘crisis generation,’ young people have had to contend with issues such as economic instability, massive changes in social consciousness and the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this context, it’s becoming more important for the youth to focus on maintaining good physical health.

The real cost of rising screen time

Growing up as a digital native certainly comes with its advantages, but there are a few downsides. Key among these is the physical and mental impact of constantly using digital devices. More screen time often means less time spent engaging in activities such as exercise, enjoying the outdoors and building face-to-face relationships.

Sandi Richardson

It comes as no surprise that like many other countries, South Africa is facing high levels of obesity as well as an uptick in mental health challenges, especially among the younger generations. Extended screen time, often spent seated or alone, can be a contributing factor to these issues.

The all-round benefits of being active

Providing opportunities for the Youth to prioritise their physical health and invest in their overall wellbeing can result in them adopting healthy lifelong habits.

In her work and interactions with employees, Sandi Richardson, HR Executive at RCS, has seen the benefits of physical activity first-hand. In her experience, engaging in regular physical activity can reap far-reaching results. These include:

  • A strengthened cardiovascular system
  • Improved muscular strength and flexibility
  • Healthy weight
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and certain cancers

But, as she explains, there are also mental, emotional and social benefits that may not be spoken about as much as the physical benefits but are just as important, especially for vulnerable youth and at-risk communities. Bringing physical activity into your daily routine, particularly if you exercise with a Club or part of a team, can:

  • Promote a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem
  • Provide a positive outlet for stress and emotional challenges
  • Present opportunities for social interaction
  • Help to foster a sense of community and belonging
  • Provide support, motivation, and accountability, making it easier to maintain a consistent exercise routine

The issue of access

In South Africa, young people face issues around access to physical outlets. Youth living in at-risk communities do not enjoy the same level of access to safe play areas or equipped sports facilities compared to their peers in other communities.

Too often, financial and social constraints prevent young people from engaging in the activities that they enjoy. Not everyone can afford the cost of gym or sports club memberships, and balance the expense of fitness gear, coaching or equipment.

Bridging the fitness gap

Fortunately, these barriers to entry can be overcome, and we see that businesses can do their part to improve access and promote an inclusive fitness environment that everyone can be a part of.

For 25 years, this has been an important part of RCS’ mission as a brand. Through its various Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives, RCS is committed to improving the lives of its employees, their families and their communities. The RCS Gugs Race for example, has become a flagship event on the South African fitness and sporting calendar.

Through its partnership with the Gugulethu Athletics Club, RCS has created a supportive running community and events that bring diverse people together and help the Youth to enjoy the benefits of exercise and camaraderie.

Likewise, RCS sponsors the Rising Star Tennis Initiative in partnership with Tennis South Africa. This programme is now in its 5th year and has expanded to more than 100 primary schools nationwide.

Youth sport is further enabled on the Cape Flats through collaborations with the JAG Foundation who facilitates a number of sport codes in schools and the WPDI (Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative) who jointly manages a basketball court with NBA Africa.

As Richardson concludes: “These sport initiatives have allowed us to bring physical wellness education into the communities that need it the most. At RCS, our broader objective is to promote inclusiveness, not only in terms of personal finance, but in other ways that can uplift and empower communities, and sport is a wonderful way to boost togetherness.

We hope that through these kinds of outreach initiatives, we can show other private sector players how important their role is in getting young people off the couch and streets and onto the track, field or court. That’s where we see the real-time benefits of uniting people and making sure that everyone, regardless of their financial standing or economic status, can be a part of building healthier, happier communities.”

Related Articles

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!