by Elton Gomes
A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that approximately 1.4 billion people around the world are at risk of deadly diseases due to lack of physical exercise.
Physical inactivity has been linked to an increased risk of serious health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. The report by WHO found that high-income countries, such as the UK and the US, were among the least active.
As richer nations enjoy an increasingly comfortable and sedentary lifestyle, the study revealed that a third of women and a quarter of men worldwide are at risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. “Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life,” the study that was published by The Lancet Global Health Journal said, according to an AFP report.
What has the study found
The study recorded activity levels of 1.9 million people across 168 countries in the world in 2016. The researchers found that there had been no improvement in physical activity levels since 2001, in spite of several public health initiatives that stated the benefits of exercise.
Conducted between 2001 and 2016, the study showed that inactivity levels were more than twice as high in wealthier countries compared to countries with lower incomes. In certain high-income regions, inactivity levels rose by five percent.
According to the study, countries that are at the forefront of insufficient physical activity are Germany, New Zealand, the United States, the UK, Argentina, and Brazil. Inactivity in Western countries was said to increase from 31 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2016.
The study also found that around the world, 32 percent women and 23 percent men do not get sufficient exercise, even when accounting the time spent walking or cycling to work and some form of physical activity on the job.
Countries exercising the most and the least
The study stated that countries with the highest rates of inactivity included Kuwait (67%), American Samoa (53%), Saudi Arabia (53%), and Iraq (52%). In these countries more than half of the adults in these countries were classified as insufficiently active.
Where does India stand
In India, the report revealed that more than 35 percent people are insufficiently active. The data showed that nearly 50 percent women and 25 percent men in India were insufficiently active in 2016.
India, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Iraq, and the Philippines are countries with the highest gender gap exercise. “In these settings, women are often expected to be at home, take care of the children, manage the household and so sometimes don’t always have time to exercise,” WHO’s Regina Guthold, lead author of the study, told AFP.
What does physical inactivity actually mean, and what are its consequences?
According to the New York Department of Health, physical inactivity is a term “used to identify people who do not get the recommended level of regular physical activity.”
Ensuring that you get daily physical activity reduces the risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease (CVD). Physical activity also helps prevent the development of diabetes, helps maintain weight loss, and reduces hypertension – all of which are independent risk factors for CVD.
Less active and less fit persons have 30 to 50 percent more risk of developing high blood pressure. Physical inactivity can be equated with the dangers of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.
Improving physical activity in India
Raising awareness of sufficient physical activity in children will hopefully help them carry forward the practice. It seems that the Indian environment has several barriers to physical activity, and a comprehensive urban planing policy is required to improve walkability ratings among citizens. Family members and educators should look to spread awareness about physical activity and encourage others to improve physical activity in India.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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