A quarter of adults are too inactive, putting health at risk

Faith Castro
September 8, 2018

Investigators found that in 2016 more than a quarter of the global population - 1.4 billion people - were insufficiently active. Regular physical inactivity is linked to poor health, increased risk of heart disease, several types of cancers, diabetes, mental health problems etc.

Levels of insufficient physical activity are more than twice as high in high-income countries compared to low-income countries, and increased by 5% in high-income countries between 2001 and 2016.

Around one-in-three women and one-in-four men worldwide did not reach the recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.

The report is a result of a study that monitored the physical activity of 1.9 million people across 168 countries, including Ireland.

According to the study, which was carried out by WHO investigators and released in The Lancet Global Health journal, overall rates of physical activity have not seen any noticeable improvement since 2001.

If current trends continue, the global target of reducing sedentary lifestyle by 10% by 2025 will not be met, said the scientists.

Indicating a clear gender gap, the study highlighted a health equity issue where women face more environmental, social and cultural barriers to participate in physical activity, particularly in their leisure time.

One bright spot on the global exercise map was southeast Asia, where women were equally as active as men in the only region where inactivity has decreased since 2001. In New Zealand, around half the adult population does enough physical activity to meet the Ministry's recommendation of at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity spread throughout the week.

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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.

Large differences between women and men existed in the United States (48% vs. 32%), the UK (40% vs. 32%), India (44% vs. 25%), the Philippines (49% vs. 30%), South Africa (47% vs. 29%) and Turkey (39% vs. 22%).

People from higher income countries tended to be more inactive at 36.8 percent compared to middle income countries at 26 percent.

China and Russian Federation had relatively low ratios of physically inactive adults at 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

About three-quarters of countries have a policy or action plan to increase physical activity among its citizens, but few have been implemented or made a substantial impact, Dr. Fiona Bull of World Health Organization, a co-author of the report, said. Among low-income countries, there was only a 0.2 percent increase in physical inactivity, from 16 percent to 16.2 percent.

Globally, 27·5% of respondents to the huge survey were not doing enough - 23.5% of men and 31% of women. As a next step the researchers would work on assessing the levels of activities among the children and youth.

"Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide", Dr.

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