1.4 billion adults face higher risk of disease from lack of exercise

  • 1.4 billion adults face higher risk of disease from lack of exercise

1.4 billion adults face higher risk of disease from lack of exercise

Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life, the report authored by four WHO experts says.

An estimated 1.4 billion people globally don't exercise enough, increasing their risk for a number of diseases including diabetes, heart attack, stroke and some cancers, according to a new report of World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency.

For example, Western countries saw the highest increase in insufficient activity, from 31 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2016.

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. The highest were 67 percent in Kuwait, 53 percent in American Samoa, 53 percent in Saudi Arabia and 52 percent in Iraq. In poorer countries, people tend to be more active at work and for transport.

However, changing physical characteristics of a community may not be enough: Gregory Knell, a researcher at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, recently published a study on whether improving sidewalks might lead to more physical activity. "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 Fiona Bull, WHO, Geneva. "Such policies are particularly important in countries with rapid urbanisation, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, which contribute to the high levels of insufficient activity in Latin America and the Caribbean".

The researchers point out that as countries prosper, the amount of occupation and domestic activity decline as more people work sedentary jobs, technology increases, public transport is more accessible and personal vehicles are more attainable.

Worldwide the prevalence of inactivity was 27.5 percent in 2016.

Across regions, many individual countries recorded large differences in insufficient activity between women and men.

Not getting enough exercise is a global problem.

China and Russian Federation had relatively low ratios of physically inactive adults at 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively. "Governments have recognized the need for action by endorsing the WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (2018-2030)", said Dr Bull. Publication of levels of participation in children and young people are forthcoming.

The results suggested "that improving sidewalks was not sufficient to increase physical activity among those who are inactive, whereas for those who are already active, living near improved sidewalks was associated with increases in reported leisure-time and walking activity".