11 Feb 2015

Cooks setting up outdoor gym to fight disease

4:07 pm on 11 February 2015

Health officials in the Cook Islands are taking a new approach this year to combatting non communicable diseases by building a free outdoor gym.

The Cooks, like much of the region, has extraordinarily high levels of NCDs and the Ministry of Health puts a lot of emphasis on raising awareness around 'NCD Day', coming up this year on March the 5th.

The ministry's director of funding and planning, Ana Silatolu-Mataitini, says on that day they will have clinics allowing people to have instant checks on their state of health.

But she says on the Rarotonga waterfront they will also put in place gym equipment to encourage exercise.

"So this is something that we want to launch on this particular day and encourage people that when they walk they can stop by these gyms and do extra in terms of press ups or chin ups or pull ups."

Ana Silatolu-Mataitini says the hope is the gym will be a permanent feature on the waterfront.

Youths attending an exercise class in Nuku'alofa. On Tonga's supermarket shelves, huge cans of corned beef the size of paint tins replaced traditional fare such as fish and coconuts long ago -- contributing to an obesity epidemic that sees the Pacific region ranked as the fattest in the world.

Tongan youths at an exercise class in Nuku'alofa Photo: AFP / Neil Sands