Reduce the mortality rate of physical inactivity!
What is physical activity?
WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits.
The term “physical activity” should not be confused with “exercise”, which is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and aims to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness. Beyond exercise, any other physical activity that is done during leisure time, for transport to get to and from places, or as part of a person’s work, has a health benefit. Further, both moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity improve health.
Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
Benefits of physical activity
Some physical activity is better than doing none. By becoming more active throughout the day in relatively simple ways, people can quite easily achieve the recommended activity levels.
Regular and adequate levels of physical activity:
- improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness;
- improve bone and functional health;
- reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various types of cancer (including breast cancer and colon cancer), and depression;
- reduce the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures; and
- are fundamental to energy balance and weight control.
Levels of insufficient physical activity
Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for global mortality and is on the rise in many countries, adding to the burden of NCDs and affecting general health worldwide. People who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active.
Globally, around 23% of adults aged 18 and over were not active enough in 2010 (men 20% and women 27%). In high-income countries, 26% of men and 35% of women were insufficiently physically active, as compared to 12% of men and 24% of women in low-income countries. Low or decreasing physical activity levels often correspond with a high or rising gross national product. The drop in physical activity is partly due to inaction during leisure time and sedentary behaviour on the job and at home. Likewise, an increase in the use of “passive” modes of transportation also contributes to insufficient physical activity.
Globally, 81% of adolescents aged 11-17 years were insufficiently physically active in 2010. Adolescent girls were less active than adolescent boys, with 84% vs. 78%
Physical inactivity is a global public health problem. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for deaths globally by 6%. Physical inactivity is expected to be the main reason for causing breast cancer and colon cancer by about 21-25%, diabetes by 27% and about 30% of ischemic heart disease.
What discourages people from being more physically active?
Several environmental factors which are linked to urbanization can discourage people from becoming more active, such as: fear of violence and crime in outdoor areas, high-density traffic, low air quality, pollution, lack of parks, sidewalks and sports/recreation facilities.
How to increase physical activity?
WHO Member States have agreed to reduce insufficient physical activity by 10% by 2025.
Countries and communities must take action to provide individuals with more opportunities to be active, in order to increase physical activity. Policies to increase physical activity aim to ensure that:
- in cooperation with relevant sectors physical activity is promoted through activities of daily living;
- walking, cycling and other forms of active transportation are accessible and safe for all;
- labour and workplace policies encourage physical activity;
- schools have safe spaces and facilities for students to spend their free time actively;
- quality physical education supports children to develop behaviour patterns that will keep them physically active throughout their lives; and
- sports and recreation facilities provide opportunities for everyone to do sports.
Policies and plans to address physical inactivity have been developed in about 80% of WHO Member States.
Children and adolescents aged 5-17years
Should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Should include activities that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.
Adults aged 18–64 years
Should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
Adults aged 65 years and above
Should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups, 2 or more days a week.
The intensity of different forms of physical activity varies between people. In order to be beneficial for cardiorespiratory health, all activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
In the age group 18-64 years, physical activity includes leisure activities eg walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, or walking/cycling instead of motor vehicles, physical activities during working hours and at home, games, sports. Global recommendations on physical activity are the primary prevention of noncommunicable diseases on the population, and the primary objective of policy makers on the national level.