Regular physical activity, such as hiking, cycling or dancing, not only makes you feel good, but also has significant benefits for health. Physical activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some types of cancer, helps control weight and contributes to mental well-being. Participation in physical activity increases the opportunities for socializing and feeling of belonging to the community.
Active living is beneficial to health at any age, but this is especially important for the healthy development of children and youth and can make a significant difference for the well-being of older people. While physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles are two of the leading health risk factors and cause about one million deaths in the WHO European Region.
Increase physical activity across sectors
There are many ways to increase physical activity in schools, workplaces, transportation or at the place of residence. The WHO calls on all sectors, including health, transportation, housing and education to work together to bring effective policies and appropriate interventions to increase physical activity.
Thanks to the scope of overwhelming findings over the past decade regarding physical activity as an important health determinant, there is a solid basis for a clear and strong call for action. The WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) 2013-2020 is one of the responses to this call. This strategy provides Member States with a political mandate to initiate or expand activities to prevent chronic illness and overweight by addressing four major risk factors, such as physical inactivity and nutrition. European levelEarlier, the European Charter for Combating Obesity set the goal of preventing an overweight epidemic and changing the current trend in the region, and elaborated on the key activities needed to encourage healthy eating and physical activity. The European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020 now aims to make operational concepts in the charter. The importance of physical activity to tackle the obesity epidemic and wider was highlighted at the Charter Conference and is reflected in the lead document “Steps to Health: A Framework for Action in the WHO European Region”.Also, the Declaration on Environment and Health, adopted by the European Member States of the WHO at the Fifth Ministerial Conference, held in Parma, Italy, on 10-12 March 2010, emphasizes the importance of providing a safe environment that will enable greater physical activity and obliges Member States to work towards achieving the set goals. WHO / Europe cooperates with HEPA Europe which promotes better health through increased physical activity, in safe conditions.
At the national level, activities in different sectors are needed to introduce key strategies for increasing physical activity in different conditions. Many countries already have developed national physical activity policies and action plans. WHO / Europe gathered in the information system in order to provide Member States with readily available information to promote physical activity and disseminate existing experiences in support of policy development.
Local authorities play a key role in creating environments and opportunities for physical activity and active living. City leaders and other decision makers can provide leadership, legitimacy and a favorable environment to develop and implement policies that support active living for all citizens.
WHO promotes active living through support and implementation of activities in the Member States. Many new initiatives are under way to help people increase their physical activity, starting from the construction of safe cycling routes in cities, to family doctors who play an important role in increasing the activity of citizens, they provide “recipes for physical activity” and support to community groups that can bring people together and help them fit. One of the activities of the WHO is the “Movement for Health” initiative, which advocates the benefits of physical activity and generates public awareness by highlighting good practices. WHO / Europe facilitates the HEPA Europe (European network for the promotion of health-enhancingphysical activity) which works to promote physical activity in health policy and in other relevant sectors in Europe. The network of European experts prepares practical tools, guidelines, conducts case studies and participates in research activities that are used throughout the region.
Physical activity versus exercise
Physical activity is any physical movement that activates the muscular skeletal system, and increases energy consumption. Physical activity is a basic means of improving the physical and mental health of people and it reduces the risks of many non-communicable diseases. Physical activity is achieved through play, work, hiking, homework and recreational activities and it should not interfere with exercise. Exercise is a sub-category of physical activity, which is planned, structured, repetitious and deliberate, in order to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.
DATA AND STATISTICS
In the world, physical inactivity is estimated as the primary cause of 21-25% of breast and colon cancer, 27% of diabetes, and about 30% of ischemic heart disease. In the Republic of N.Macedonia, the Health Care Behavior in Children (HBSC) survey, aged 11, 13 and 15 years, was conducted in 2014. showed that the recommended 60 minute daily physical activity is practiced by only 32% boys and 22% girls. The results of everyday physical activity show that boys and younger respondents are more likely to be physically active in most days. There is a drastic drop in physical activity among girls, and that difference is almost three times lower for 15-year-old girls compared to 11-year-old girls. Internationally, N.Macedonia is among the countries with high prevalence of daily physical activity and girls are better ranked than boys. Respondents from N. Macedonia have a higher prevalence than the average of the study, which is 25% for boys and 16% for girls.