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Post-pandemic: Changing the way we view fitness in Sri Lanka

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by Talavou Alalima

When the first Covid-19 wave hit Sri Lanka in March this year, people physically active realized how important exercises were for their health and well-being. The second corona surge, now sweeping across the country, has ensued a sharp decline in physical fitness with many people gaining weight and diets in disarray.

This has driven home the fundamental point that we need to organize, prepare and participate in various outdoor activities in uncrowded places. We need go out and be active to boost our immunity. Research shows that activities within open spaces pose a lower risk of the spread of the contagion.

One of the commendable factors is building walking tracks. This has motivated people to walk, jog or cycle. We need to change the mentality and get more and more people into fitness encompassing both nutritional and exercise aspects. This is where organized activity comes into play. One should discover a total physical transformation, and for this to happen, certain equipment with adequate facilities, coupled with guidance from those who understand the science, are imperative. That’s where gyms play a key role. I believe the state sector should invest substantially on such infrastructure and create more awareness by introducing programs at ground-level.

Today, many degenerative and non-communicable diseases are destroying lives primarily due to lack of knowledge and access to organized fundamental physical activity structures without paying a steep price. The conventional annual memberships are outdated and archaic. In this day and age, people look for access to any physical activity facility or service at their convenience to suit their budget and location.

We see many people talking about various topics related to fitness. Despite the many technological advances and awareness, there are no sufficient innovative solutions that have an absolute impact on an individual’s health and wellness.

We need to build a healthy Sri Lanka – a future generation which values healthy lifestyles, with parents still around to see their children grow up and produce grandchildren. If we don’t make this change today, we’ll continue to see a decline in the nation’s health and wellness standards. We have to strengthen our immunity to our best, beginning with changing the way we view exercise, fitness and activity.

I’ve seen a significant number of people coming into the gym for the first time. In this backdrop, those who have been into physical training from their young adult life have a higher level of appreciation for activities and trends that have evolved throughout. However, for the majority of the population there’s a long way to go as only less than a mere one percent is into active fitness and exercises.

My philosophy in life is about serving, uplifting and strengthening others, especially those who are disadvantaged, ignored, forgotten, helpless and are underprivileged. I recall never asking from my single parent mother for anything. I love to see the impact and contribution I make. So, I chose to build gyms to give access to quality facilities to those who cannot financially afford it.

The 1996 Cricket World Cup winning team benefited from working out at my gym, with Sanath Jayasuriya discovering his true gift here. From thereon, almost every Sri Lankan national team and clubs, including at school-level, have trained in my gyms free of charge.

In 2000, I pioneered the sports nutrition manufacturing industry. Later in 2007, I hosted the Edge Grand Prix, a series of Track and Field championships. I also launched, funded and backed the ‘Loin Warrior Sports High Performance Program’ for five years, training and sponsoring nutrition needs of over 40 Sri Lankan champion sportsmen. Today, we see the wisdom of performance, nutrition and training that must go hand-in-hand embedded in the fabric of all sports.

I donated fully-equipped gyms to the Welisara, Mahara and Bogambara prisons. I noticed that 80% of prisoners seemed to have begun their life of crime after they first stole food to feed their children. No child must be denied food to such an extent that a father must steal to feed them.

Seeing the devastating impact of the dengue epidemic on families during its peak, I took on the leadership to fight the viral disease by launching the ‘Death to Dengue’ campaign in association with the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC). The battle towards this end still continues.

I also hypothesized that, if the sporting talent of children could be predicted early enough with a high level of accuracy, the chances of them competing to become world champions across all sports when they reached their physically maturity are realistic. This gave birth to a first of its kind predictive algorithm-based system. Today, seven years later, testimonies of children confirmed the prediction was accurate.

Though technology has brought about convenience, one cannot take away the human touch. In my experience, I have seen that people are able to achieve higher levels of fitness because of another human being. The connection between two people encourages and motivates the way no technology could. For example, we have many fancy tracking devices, but this is only feedback.

What’s critical is what we should do with all that data and how to use it for yourself to achieve the desired outcome. Exercising is a discipline that is embedded into one’s lifestyle over time; it takes a lot of hard work and commitment.

I’ve seen many gym members joining with tremendous excitement but due to their demanding lifestyles, they are unable to sustain a continuous training regime to achieve their desired fitness goals. Times have changed and people look forward to experience and enjoy a full cross section of various exercises, recreations, adventure, sports, coaching among others.



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U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies in Rome Cindy McCain to visit Lanka

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Colombo, September 23, 2022: United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

In addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).  U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger.

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.  Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.

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President urges SL diaspora in the UK to invest in their motherland

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By Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week urged the Sri Lanka diaspora in the United Kingdom to invest in Sri Lanka projects to revive the economy. Addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, he said that he is proud that the British Sri Lankan community for making a mark in every field of the UK economy such as trading, services, business, and requested them to come together as Sri Lankans and people of Sri Lankan origin to help build the motherland.

The President added that Sri Lanka is looking at transforming its economy to a competitive export-oriented one to meet the current challenges and build social systems and modernize the education system.

He remarked on the special affection Queen Elizabeth II had towards Sri Lanka as the Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving Head of State of Ceylon for 20 years prior to the nation becoming a Republic and stated that her passing is the end of an era.

The president, first lady and party arrived in London on Sept. 17 via Dubai by an Emirates flight to attend the State Funeral Service of Queen Elizabeth II.They were received at the Heathrow airport by High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and were driven to the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane, London where they stayed.

On Sunday (Sept. 18), the President accompanied by the First Lady and High Commissioner attended the Lying-in-State of the late Queen at the Palace of Westminster which was followed by a Reception hosted by His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.The President and the First Lady attended the State Funeral Service held at the Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sept. 19).  On the same day, he signed the Book of Condolence. The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly MP hosted a reception for the visiting world leaders at Church House.

On 20th September, the President met the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC. They discussed Sri Lanka’s engagement with the Commonwealth Secretariat and matters of mutual interest. He also visited the London Buddhist Vihara during which Ven Dr Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Incumbent of the Vihara and the Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain invoked blessings on the President and the people of Sri Lanka.

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Families countrywide facing malnutrition, says Cardinal

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By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has warned that the prevailing economic crisis and increasing unemployment and food prices are accelerating malnutrition among hundred thousands of families countrywide.

Addressing a ceremony at the annual get-together of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate Service held at St Peter’s College Auditorium in Colombo, the Archbishop said that it was a shame that responsible local officials keep denying the prevailing status quo when world humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF continue to warn of the increasing malnutrition levels among children.

Many international organizations have pointed out that malnutrition in Sri Lanka was increasing at an alarming rate but the authorities responsible are hiding the truth and go to the extent of rejecting such reports.

“If they reject the reports of international organizations, then it is their paramount duty of conduct proper surveys to understand the situation. It is no secret that large numbers of Lankan families are starving due to the high prices of food. According to the UNICEF more than six million people consume only a single meal a day. It is so unfortunate that Health Ministry officials who spend their times in the air conditioned rooms in Colombo do not know the plight of the poor in rural areas,” the Cardinal said.He said that 225 MPs were concerned only of their well-being while continuing to ignore the actual and pressing issues of people.

“This country is in dire situation today mainly due to inefficient and corrupt political leaders. It is sad that these so-called people’s representatives are not concerned of the situation of people who are experiencing the worst ever economic and political crisis this country has ever faced,” the Cardinal said.

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