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Organisations of the future: Focus on Fitness – Where are you headed?

‘This lady has had it tough and rough but she believed in changing her life and hence she achieved so much.’ – Busisiwe Mmotla (Modern Day Educator, Miss Soweto 2017, USN Face of Fitness Winner, Fitnessmagsa Covergirl).

This is a photo of Busi Mmotla with her mom and dad who were together here for the first time in many years. Busi is the youngest of seven siblings.  She was raised by her single unemployed mother in Soweto. Against all odds Busi has made her dreams come true. After completing her matric she doggedly chased after her ambitions and managed to get funding for university where she completed her studies to become a qualified teacher. She also won the prestigious Miss Soweto crown in November 2017 – after having tried for the title twice before!


This is not a woman who gives up. This is a woman who believes in hard work and perseverance. But achieving her dreams did not mean Busi didn’t experience the ups and downs of life. During her Miss Soweto reign she experienced multiple breakdowns and found her mental health deteriorate rapidly which was frightening. She admits to not having been strong mentally and emotionally. She cancelled her gym membership for a year as she didn’t have the heart to go. In 2019 Busi re-joined the gym because she says she ‘needed mental strength’ and she also started to be cautious about what she eats. Busi found gym to be a healing space that offered her a positive release for her pent-up emotions and a way to relieve her anxiety.



You can watch Busi speak about her fitness journey here:

On the 17th of December 2019 Busi was announced as the winner of the USN Face of Fitness for 2020 and beyond!

This is a remarkable story and it’s probably one you can relate to as you no doubt are driven to achieve your dreams but have experienced a number of ups and downs along the way. Some of those ups and downs, like Busi’s, may have included mental health issues. Did you know that 1 in 3 South Africa’s will suffer from mental illness at some point in their life (according to the SA Depression & Anxiety Group ‘SADAG’)?

In Virgin Pulse’s 2019 publication ‘Mental Health in the Workplace – What Global Leaders Need to Know’ mental health is defined as ‘how you think, it’s how you feel, and it’s how you behave. In essence, it’s the state that your mind is in. And having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body. Conveniently, the things that keep our bodies healthy — like good nutrition, exercise, and sleep — are also the things that keep our minds healthy.’

The publication states that between 76% and 85% of people with mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment for their disorder. The Financial Mail in their 28 November 2019 workplace health article titled ‘The high cost of mental illness’ states: ‘The majority of those suffering from mental health issues are dependent on the public health sector which has just 18 beds available for every 100,000 people.’ South Africa is in the bottom 4 countries for providing mental health treatment.

A study conducted by SADAG in partnership with Hexor and Lundbeck found that ‘more than 40% of illnesses are the result of work-related stress, depression, burnout or anxiety disorders and that companies are losing up to 16 days every year in productivity per employee because of this.’

It’s evident that if South Africa is to grow its economy in a sustainable way, both government and businesses need to start finding practical solutions for our mental health issues.

What’s encouraging is there are now developments being made that both you and your organisation can choose to be a part of. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 global goals designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.’ They were set in 2015 by the United Nations and are intended to be achieved by 2030. SDG 3 ‘ Good Health and Wellbeing’ is vital in effectively achieving all the other SDGs. The objective of this SDG is to ‘‘Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages’.

On the 6th of February 2020 FinBiz2030 will be launched in Johannesburg. This initiative involves One Young World, Chartered Accountants Worldwide and SAICA. It aims to unite and mobilise the finance and business community to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Additionally, SAICA formed its Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group (HWAG) in 2018 to work on integrating health metrics into traditional corporate reporting. It’s first step was to conduct a comprehensive survey (which was completed by 172 companies) to understand where South Africa is in this regard. Reporting on ‘mental wellness’ programmes was found to be one of the key components to be reported on and will be explored further when the group kicks off with its first meeting in February 2020.

If you’re looking for a simple yet effective and relatively low-cost way to start addressing mental health issues in your organisation now why not implement a fitness challenge? The start of a new year is always a great time to do so. Exercise has a profoundly positive effect on anxiety, stress and depression. It also improves sleep and boosts both memory and productivity. Additionally, challenges can be a powerful tool to connect disconnected workers, improve organisation culture and strengthen teams. Why not make 2020 your organisations healthiest year yet?

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