Lack of exercise puts one in four people at risk, says WHO

    Abdulaziz Sobh

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    Very little progress has been made in reducing levels of inactivity worldwide, experts warn.

    A WHO report estimates that more than a quarter of people worldwide (1.4 billion) do not get enough physical exercise, a figure that has barely improved since 2001.

    Inactivity increases the risk of a series of health problems, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

    High-income countries, including the United Kingdom, were among the least active.

    And it was discovered that women were more sedentary throughout the world, with the exception of two regions of Asia.

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    Researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) analyzed self-reported data on the activity of 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries, including 1.9 million people, for study in The Lancet Global Health.

    They found that in high-income countries, such as the United Kingdom and the USA. The proportion of inactive people increased from 32% in 2001 to 37% in 2016, while in low-income countries it remained stable at 16%.

    Those who were classified as inactive did less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes at a vigorous intensity, per week.

    The countries that drive the upward trend include Germany, New Zealand, and the US. UU

    Women were less active than men across East and Southeast Asia, with the largest differences in South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Western high-income countries.

    The authors said that this was probably caused by a combination of factors, including extra duties of child care and cultural attitudes that made it difficult for them to exercise.

    In the United Kingdom, inactivity levels in 2016 were 36% overall, 32% men and 40% women.

    Experts said that the transition from more affluent countries to more sedentary jobs and hobbies, coupled with increased use of road transport, could explain their higher levels of inactivity.

    In low-income countries, people are more likely to be active in their jobs and to walk or use public transportation.

    The authors of the report warned that, as things stand, the WHO 2025 goal of reducing global inactivity by 10% would be missed.

    Dr. Regina Guthold, the lead author of the WHO study, said: "Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not declining worldwide, and more than a quarter of the adults are not reaching the recommended levels, physical activity levels for good health.

    "Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases."

    Co-author Dr. Fiona Bull, also from the WHO, said: "Addressing these inequalities in levels of physical activity between men and women will be fundamental to achieving the objectives of global activity and will require interventions to promote and improve women's access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable. "

    Exercise guidelines for people 19 to 64 years of age
    How much?

    At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week
    Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles
    Break long periods of sitting with light activity
    What is moderate aerobic activity?

    Walk fast, do aerobics in the water, ride a bike on flat terrain or with some hills, double tennis, push a lawnmower, walk, ride a skateboard, skate, volleyball, basketball
    What counts as vigorous activity?

    Running or running, swimming fast, riding a fast bike or in the hills, individual tennis, football, rugby, jump rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics, martial arts
    What activities strengthen the muscles?

    lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use their own body weight, such as push-ups and crunches, heavy gardening, digging and shoveling, yoga
    What activities are both aerobic and muscular?

    training circuit, aerobics, running, football, rugby, netball, hockey
    Source: NHS

    For more information, including guidelines for children and adults who are 65 or older, click here.

    The countries with the highest inactivity rates were:

    Kuwait 67%
    Saudi Arabia 53%
    Iraq 52%
    The countries with the least inactivity were:

    Uganda and Mozambique 6%
    The experts called on governments to provide and maintain an infrastructure that promotes sports and increases walking and cycling for transport.

    Dr. Melody Ding of the University of Sydney, who was not involved in the study, said that while economic development led to changes in lifestyle that increased sedentary behavior, governments could do more to help people to be more active, such as improving public transport and making it easier to walk and ride a bicycle.

    Dr. Mike Brannan, national director of physical activity at Public Health England, said: "These figures highlight the global problem of inactivity and the United Kingdom is no exception.

    "We need measures to reverse decades of decline in the level of physical activity of nations.

    "With our partners, we are working to make the nation move more by supporting social and physical environments that encourage healthier and more active lifestyles and through our physical activity work."

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