Over 1.4 billion adults faced risk of diseases in 2016 due to inactivity – Report

The headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pictured in Geneva [Photo Credit: VOANEWS]

Government has been advised to encourage Nigerians to make physical exercise a daily routine, following a report that more than a quarter of the world’s adult population faced risk of diseases in 2016 due to inactive lifestyles.

According to a new data published in the Lancet Global Health, one in four adults or about 28 per cent of the global adult population did not engage in physical activities. The figure is also believed to be as high as one in three adults in some countries.

This predisposes them to numerous diseases, including type two diabetes, dementia, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases and cancer, the report stated.

The paper, which was authored by four World Health Organisation experts, reported data that update 2008 estimates on levels of activity and, for the first time, reported trend analyses showing that overall, the global level of inactivity in adults remains largely unchanged since 2001.

According to the findings, women were less active than men, with an over eight per cent difference at the global level. One in three women (32 per cent) and one in four men (23 per cent) worldwide were not reaching the recommended level of physical activity to stay healthy: At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activities per week.

High income countries are more inactive (37 per cent) compared with middle income (26 per cent) and low income countries (16 per cent).

The data showed the need for all countries to increase priority given to national and sub-national actions to provide the environments that support physical activity and increase the opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to be active every day.

The new study is based on self-reported activity level, including activities at work and at home, for means of transport and during leisure times in adult age 18 years and older. The survey was conducted in 168 countries and included 1.9 million participants.


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The lead author, Regina Guthold, of WHO Switzerland said unlike other major global health risks, levels of activity are falling worldwide.

The study found that women were less active than men in all regions of the world apart from east and southeast Asia.

Co-author, Fiona Bull, of WHO Geneva said addressing these inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women will be critical to achieving global activity target and will require interventions to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable.

WHO said the new Global Action Plan on Physical Activity sets the target to reduce physical inactivity by 10 percent by 2025 and 15 percent by 2030.

Speaking on the need for regular activities, a physical health/gym instructor, Ayobami Tahirid, said most Nigerians exercise only when they have medical challenges or are instructed by their doctors.

“It is just of recent that you have more people coming to the gym to work out. This they do because they want to keep trim and most of them are not consistent. Some, especially the women tend to stop once they have achieved their aim,” he said.

Mr Tahirid said exercising is meant to be part of a daily routine just like eating.

He urged the Ministry of Health to make a case for physical exercise as part of the daily routine for Nigerians as this will help the country reduce the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, lung diseases among others.

“It helps with blood circulation and reduces health risk. Regular physical activity reduces people’s risk of poor health, including cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer and diabetes, as well as mental health conditions,” he said.

According to WHO, NCDs – primarily heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes – are the world’s largest killers, with an estimated 38 million deaths annually. Of these deaths, 16 million are premature (under 70 years of age).

WHO said the prevention of NCDs is a growing issue: the burden of NCDs falls mainly on developing countries, where 82 per cent of premature deaths occur from these diseases.

“Tackling the risk factors will therefore not only save lives; it will also provide a huge boost for the economic development of countries,” it said.

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