A quarter of the world’s adults are not active enough

Leslie Hanson
September 7, 2018

More than 1.4bn adults are putting themselves at heightened risk of deadly diseases by not getting enough exercise, doctors are warning, with global activity levels virtually unchanged in almost two decades.

The report's authors warned that as things stood the WHO's 2025 target of reducing global inactivity by 10% would be missed.

Regina Guthold from the WHO said: "Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health".

In 2016, physical activity varied across income groups: Just 16% of people surveyed in low-income countries revealed an inadequate amount of exercise, compared with 37% in high-income countries. In general, women are far less active than men, except in east and southeast Asia.

Gregory Knell, a researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas explains why adults are not getting enough exercise.

The authors arrived at these findings after pooling data from 358 population-based surveys across 168 countries, representing some 1.9 million people.

A study has revealed nearly a third of Australians aren't getting enough exercise, putting them at a heightened risk of deadly disease.

Despite propagation of health awarness across the world, there has been no improvement in levels of physical activity among men and women for 15 years.

In addition to the multiple health benefits of physical activity, societies that are more active can generate additional returns on investment including a reduced use of fossil fuels, cleaner air and less congested, safer roads.

Where are physical inactivity levels highest? The study reveals that countries having high-income, including the United Kingdom, were among the least active leading to higher risk of health issues like heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer. More than a quarter of all adults - 1.4 billion people worldwide - were inadequately active in 2016, compared with 23.3% in 2010. Only 6 percent of residents of Uganda and Mozambique were too sedentary, the report found, making those countries the most active in the world.

Participants were asked to self-report their activity levels at home, at work, and during travel and leisure time. "Latin America and the Caribbean, and high-income Western countries are the two regions with the highest levels of inactivity, and with increasing trends in inactivity".

They acknowledged new policies in global and national level, but said implementation will require "bold leadership and full engagement" across sectors to change the current approach. In high-income regions inactivity levels even increased by five percent. People in poorer nations are more than twice as active as their counterparts in high-income nations.

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