Document Type : Original Article
Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Sports Physician, 68 Florida Street Ravensmead, 7480, Cape Town, South Africa
Discipline of Public Health Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, Durban, South Africa
Introduction: Ill health and poor physical and mental conditioning adversely affects pilgrims’ ability to optimally perform the arduous physical rituals of Hajj. We postulate that a supervised, pre-departure exercise programme improves their health status and may reduce morbidity.
Methods: Ninety-three accredited pilgrims completed a 6-12 weeks graduated, supervised walking programme designed to get the participants fit to do a 10 km walk. Assessments including a morbidity survey, a six-minute walk test, and a POMS (Profile of Mood States) were conducted before and immediately after the exercise programme. A morbidity questionnaire, the six-minute walk test, and POMS were completed post-Hajj (n = 88). A group of 200 non-matched pilgrims who were not part of the exercise programme, were approached post-Hajj to fill in the morbidity questionnaire, with eight-two responding.
Results: Results for 88 participants were available with 13.7% reporting medical events during the Hajj period, significantly less than the non-participants (62.2% of 82 respondents), and less when compared to other studies (up to 91%). The mean distance recorded in the six-minute walk test increased by 5% after the exercise programme (481.3 meters before to 506.3 m after) and 3% after Hajj (520.7 m). Similar positive changes in the POMS were noted across the three time periods. The resting heart rate did not show significant changes.
Conclusion: This study shows that a supervised exercise programme for Hajj pilgrims has a positive effect on their physical and mental conditioning, which may reduce morbidity. Larger controlled trials are warranted to determine the optimum dose of exercise.