Physical inactivity, a key risk factor for diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer, is also the fourth leading cause of mortality, as recent research by the World Health Organization reports. The findings, published in February this year, define physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure. And don’t assume that’s necessarily exercise, as the global authority on health points out, although exercise certainly falls under it too.
“People who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week,” explains the World Health Organisation website.
On the contrary, both moderate and vigorous physical activity bring health benefits that are surprisingly vast. As well as playing a role to help prevent colon and breast cancer, regular moderate activities such as walking and cycling can also help to alleviate depression, improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness, bone and functional health and reduce risk of hypertension and stroke. It can even lower the chance of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures.
Interestingly, the level of physical inactivity is higher in high-income countries, which includes places like Australia, New Zealand and the United States. A World Health Organisation survey undertaken in 2008 showed that in these environments 41% of men were insufficiently active, and 48% of women. These statistics were more than halved in low-income countries, with more than 80% of men and 79% of women meeting the recommended physical activity requirements.
Factors contributing to inactivity are mainly sedentary jobs, lack of activity during leisure time and “passive” modes of commuting, such as driving or train.
In its Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2013-2020 the World Health Organisation seeks to work with its international community to reduce physical inactivity by 10%.
Some practical policies they will seek to implement include ensuring activities like walking and cycling are accessible and safe for all, as well as workplace and labour policies encouraging physical activities.
As well as schools having appropriate and safe spaces for children to spend their free time actively, facilitates like sports and recreation facilities, Quality Physical Education (QBE) is also a key factor to this. QBE supports children to develop behaviour patterns that will keep them physically active from childhood to adulthood.
For children and adolescents, the World Health Organisation advises 60 minutes a day of vigorous activity while for adults the recommended amount is 150 minutes a week. Yet involvement of all capacities is encouraged. “Some physical activity is better than doing none,” the World Health Organisation says.
Some Ways To Reduce Physical Inactivity:
- Park further away than you need to
Incidental exercise is a great way to start increasing your physical activity and can have a cumulative effect on general health.
- Do more housework
Mopping, cleaning the shower, vacuuming, weeding: both you and your house can benefit from this physical activity. Use an egg timer to allow yourself only a certain amount of time for one task, this should result in more vigorous activity as you aim to beat the clock.
- Instead of catching up with a friend for coffee, take a walk
The benefits of walking and talking were known by the Ancients, with the Greek philosopher Aristotle thought to walk around as he taught his students. And just because you do this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on that coffee! Grab a takeaway on the way or “reward” yourself afterwards with a your favourite latte!
- Exercise videos
Raining? Can’t afford a gym membership? Nowhere nearby to exercise? Why not just put on an fashioned work out dvd and get moving that way? And if you really can’t bear to do that but are all out of ideas for getting your heart rate up, remember the humble star jump.
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