The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that almost 500 million people will develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes or other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) attributable to physical inactivity if governments don’t take urgent action to promote the benefits of exercise.
Medics say that although comfortable, sitting is not healthy for our bodies because it slowly damages the nerves, and leads to poor blood circulation, muscle loss, increased blood pressure and increased blood sugar, which are all risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline, among others.
But despite the risk for inactivity, the global status report on physical activity 2022 which measures the extent to which governments are implementing recommendations to increase physical activity across all ages and abilities, shows that more and more people are now living sedentary lifestyles, spending more than eight hours every day, either seated on office desks or in a couch in front of TV sets.
Data from 194 countries show that overall, progress is slow and that countries need to accelerate the development and implementation of policies to increase heart rates, prevent disease and reduce the burden on already overwhelmed health services.
The WHO recommends that countries scale up the implementation of policies to support people to be more active through walking, cycling, sport, and other physical activity. The health agency says that the price of inaction and staying on the couch will be severe, costing around USD 27 billion in extra healthcare costs.
“The benefits are huge, not only for the physical and mental health of individuals, but also for societies, environments, and economies…We hope countries and partners will use this report to build more active, healthier, and fairer societies for all,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He adds that the economic burden of taking it too easy is significant and warns that the cost of treating new cases of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will reach nearly USD 300 billion by 2030.
To help countries increase physical activity, WHO’s Global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030 sets out 20 policy recommendations. These include safer roads to encourage more biking and walking and providing more programmes and opportunities for physical activity in key settings, such as childcare, schools, primary health care and the workplace.
The report calls for countries to prioritize a fitness boost, as key to improving health and tackling NCDs, integrate physical activity into all relevant policies, and develop tools, guidance and training. “It is good for public health and makes economic sense to promote more physical activity for everyone,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, WHO Director in the Department of Health Promotion, as the report was launched this morning.
Dr Krech also observed a need to facilitate inclusive programmes for physical activity for all and ensure people have easier access to them. At the moment, less than 50 per cent of countries have a national physical activity policy, of which less than 40 per cent are operational. Only 30 per cent of countries have national physical activity guidelines for all ages.URN
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