1.4 billion risk disease from not getting enough exercise

By June Shannon Policy News   |   6th Sep 2018

Physical inactivity is a major health risk putting millions at risk of serious disease

One in three women and one in four men worldwide do not get enough exercise to stay healthy, meaning that 1.4 billion adults are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers due to a lack of physical activity.

These were the results of the first ever study to look at global physical activity trends over time. The study was done by researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) and was published in The Lancet Global Health journal recently.

According to the study, these estimates show that there has been little progress in improving physical activity levels between 2001 and 2016. The data show that if current trends continue, the 2025 global activity target of a 10 per cent relative reduction in insufficient physical activity will not be met.

"Over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health,"

Dr Regina Guthold , WHO, Switzerland

“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,” warned the study’s lead author, Dr Regina Guthold of the WHO, Switzerland.

In 2016, around one in three women (32%) and one in four men (23%) worldwide were not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity to stay healthy – i.e. at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.

The new study is based on self-reported activity levels, including activity at work and at home, for transport, and during leisure time, in adults aged 18 years and older from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries, including 1.9 million participants.

The study found that in 2016, levels of insufficient activity among adults varied widely across income groups – 16 per cent in low-income countries compared to 37 per cent in high-income countries and in 55 (33%) of 168 countries, more than a third of the population was insufficiently physically active.

Women were less active than men in all regions of the world, apart from east and southeast Asia.

"We can all make small change to our lifestyles that will benefit our health- make getting active one of them,”

Enda Campbell, Workplace Relations Manager, Irish Heart Foundation

“Addressing these inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women will be critical to achieving global activity targets and will require interventions to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable,” said co-author Dr Fiona Bull from WHO, Geneva.

The study found that in wealthier countries, the move towards more sedentary occupations, recreation and motorised transport could explain the higher levels of inactivity, while in lower-income countries, more activity is undertaken at work and for transport. While declines in occupational and domestic physical activity are inevitable as countries prosper, and use of technology increases, governments must provide and maintain infrastructure that promotes increased walking and cycling for transport and active sports and recreation, the authors stated.

“Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs),” said Dr Guthold.

Noncommunicable diseases also known as chronic diseases are those that are not passed on from person to person and tend to be long lasting. They include heart disease, asthma, diabetes and cancers.

Commenting on the study Enda Campbell, Workplace Relations Manager at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “Our environment is becoming more sedentary every day and as a result we are losing out on the fantastic benefits of physical activity. These numbers are certainly worrying, but no surprise. Any type of movement is worthwhile, not just purposeful exercise. We can all make small change to our lifestyles that will benefit our health- make getting active one of them”

The study’s release comes ahead of the Third United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on NCDs and their risk factors, including physical inactivity, being held on 27 September 2018 in New York.


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cardiovascular disease exercise healthy living heart disease inactivity stroke

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