The World Health Organisation, WHO, has raised the alarm over what it termed the growing sedentary lifestyles among adults and adolescents.
WHO urged people to “get up and get active”, saying that insufficient exercise contributes to cancer, diabetes, depression and other non-communicable diseases.
The UN health agency, in a new document, expressed concerns that “less and less people are active in many countries, with nearly a quarter of all adults and more than 80 per cent of adolescents being too sedentary”.
WHO’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 recommends that inactive people start with “small amounts of physical activity” and then gradually increase duration, frequency and intensity over time.
Physical activity can be any activity, not just sport, that uses energy – from playing and doing household chores to gardening and dancing.
The UN agency highlighted 10 facts and benefits of physical activity.
Fact one states that physical activity reduces the risk of disease. Physical activity reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, diabetes, hypertension, various types of cancer, including colon cancer and breast cancer as well as depression.
“Physical activity is also fundamental to energy balance and weight control. Globally, about 23 per cent of adults and 81 per cent of school-going adolescents are not active enough.
“Generally, women and girls are less active than men and boys, and older adults are less active than younger adults.”
Fact two says that “regular physical activity helps to maintain a healthy body.
“People who are physically active improve their muscular and cardio-respiratory fitness; improve their bone and functional health.
“They have lower rates of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, cancer (including colon and breast cancer), and depression.”
It added that people who were physically active “have a lower risk of falling and of hip or vertebral fractures; and are more likely to maintain their weight”.
According to WHO’s fact three, physical activity is not the same as sport. Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscles that uses energy.
This, it says, includes sports, exercise and other activities such as playing, walking, household chores, gardening, and dancing.
“Any activity, be it for work, to walk or cycle to and from places or as part of leisure time, has a health benefit,” it says.
Fact four: Moderate and vigorous physical activity bring benefits: Intensity refers to the rate at which the activity is being performed.
“It can be thought of as how hard a person works to do an activity. The intensity of different forms of physical activity varies between people.
“Depending on an individual’s relative level of fitness, examples of moderate physical activity could include: brisk walking, dancing, or household chores.
“Examples of vigorous physical activity could be: running, fast cycling, fast swimming, or moving heavy loads”.
According to fact five, 60 minutes a day for people between the ages of five and 17 years should have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.
“More than 60 minutes of physical activity a day brings additional health benefits,” it said.
Fact six, says that “adults aged 18 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
“In order to be beneficial for cardio-respiratory health, all activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.”
Fact seven, for adults aged 65 and above, it says that “the main recommendations for adults and older adults are the same.
In addition, older adults with poor mobility should do physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls three or more days per week.
“When older adults cannot do the recommended amount of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow”.
Fact eight, says that all healthy adults need to be physically active: Unless specific medical conditions indicate the contrary, WHO’s recommendations apply to all people – irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level.
“These recommendations also apply to individuals with chronic non-communicable conditions not related to mobility such as hypertension or diabetes.
“Adults with disabilities should also follow WHO’s recommendations.”
According to WHO’s fact nine, some physical activity is better than none.
“Inactive people should start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase duration, frequency, and intensity over time.
“Inactive adults, older adults, and those with disease limitations will have added health benefits when they become more active.
“Pregnant women, postpartum women, and persons with cardiac conditions may need to take extra precautions and seek medical advice before striving to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity.”
Fact 10, says that supportive environments and communities help people to be physically active going that urban and environmental policies have huge potential to increase levels of physical activity.
“These policies should ensure that: 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.
“Sports and recreation facilities provide opportunities for everyone to be physically active.
“Any activity, be it for work, to walk or cycle to and from places or as part of leisure time, has a health benefit,” according to the UN agency.