ALERT: WHO says lack of exercise increasing disease risk globally

Henrietta Strickland
September 5, 2018

Researchers in their analysis included data from almost 2 million participants (representing 96per cent of the global population), which shows that globally, in 2016, more than a quarter of all adults was not getting enough physical activity.

Across regions, the study said, many individual countries recorded large differences in insufficient activity between women and men such as Bangladesh (40% vs 16%), Eritrea (31% vs 14%), India (44% vs 25%), Iraq (65% vs 40%), Philippines (49% vs 30%), South Africa (47% vs 29%), Turkey (39% vs 22%), the US (48% vs 32%), and the United Kingdom (40% vs 32%).

Uganda was found to be the country with the lowest number of people getting sufficient exercise, at just 5.5 percent, while Kuwait was named as the highest at 67 percent.

"Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases".

Globally 27 per cent of people do not take enough exercise, compared with 36 per cent in Britain. Half as many people are sufficiently active in affluent countries as in the developing world, where many people still labour every day.

More than 1.4 billion adults are putting themselves at heightened risk of deadly diseases by not getting enough exercise, doctors are warning, with global activity levels virtually unchanged in almost two decades.

The report's authors warned that as things stood the WHO's 2025 target of reducing global inactivity by 10 percent would be missed.

Although high-income countries have a higher prevalence of insufficient physical activity, low- and middle-income countries still bear the larger share of the global disease burden of physical inactivity.

The WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of "moderate-intensity" exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming or gentle cycling weekly, or 75 minutes of "vigorous-intensity" activity like running or team sports.

Women were found to be more sedentary throughout the world, with the exception of two regions of Asia.

"Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health", Dr Regina Guthold, lead author of the study, said.

The findings reveal that there has been no improvement in global levels of physical activity since 2001 and that some one-in-three women and one-in-four men globally are not active enough to stay healthy.

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Dr Melody Ding, from the University of Sydney, who was not involved in the study, said that while economic development led to lifestyle changes that increased sedentary behaviour, governments could do more to help people be more active.

The WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (2018-30) provides a selection of policy options targeting different settings and population groups that can be adapted and tailored to local contexts in all countries.

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