Inactivity puts physical, mental health at risk

The WHO study has highlighted a health equity issue where women face more environmental social and cultural barriers to participate in physical activity

Quarter of world's population 'not active enough to stay healthy'

Regular physical inactivity is linked to poor health, increased risk of heart disease, several types of cancers, diabetes, mental health problems etc.

"Levels of inactivity are more than twice as high in high income countries as compared to low income countries, with an increasing trend in high income countries", lead study author Regina Guthold of World Health Organization wrote in an email.

Additionally, low income countries are better off than high-income where the inactivity has increased more over the years.

Levels of insufficient activity among adults varied widely across income groups, with 16 percent in low-income countries compared to 37 percent in high-income countries.

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

They recommend that all countries immediately prioritise and scale up their efforts to improve physical activity levels and increase opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to be active every day.

In its Global Action Plan issued in June, WHO outlined its goal to help decrease overall physical inactivity in the world by 10 percent before 2025, but warned in its latest report that this goal won't be reached if current trends continue.

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He said that the greatest levels of insufficient activity comparing women and men appeared in South Asia (43 versus 24 percent), central Asia, Middle East and North Africa (40 versus 26 percent). 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. The WHO report, as quoted in BBC says that around 1.4 billion people are not involved in physical activities much.

In wealthier countries, the transition towards more sedentary occupations, recreation and motorised transport could explain the higher levels of inactivity, while in lower-income countries, more activity is undertaken at work and for transport, according to the authors. It has been reported that among other countries, it is the high-income ones like the United Kingdom where people are most inactive.

Across regions, many individual countries recorded large differences in insufficient activity between women and men.

4 out of 10 Irish women aren't getting enough exercise.

All countries are urged to up their national efforts to support physical activity to promote health of their populations.

"As countries urbanise, people who used to be, say, farmers, and got a lot of physical activity through their work all of a sudden live in an urban environment where they might be without work or move to a sedentary job, so societies need to compensate", she said. Finland, where only 17 per cent of people are not active enough, is the most energetic nation in the West.

The WHO added that insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for premature death worldwide.

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