One in 4 at risk of chronic diseases due to lack of exercise: WHO report

Lack of sufficient exercise will put one in four people across the world at risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers, says a damning peer reviewed observation study to estimate global physical activity trends over time.

The study, undertaken by researchers from the World Health Organisation and published in The Lancet Global Health journal, says there has been no improvement in physical activity across the globe since 2001. If current trends continue, the 2025 global activity target of a 10% relative reduction in insufficient physical activity will not be met, it 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,” warns the study’s lead author, Dr Regina Guthold of the WHO, Switzerland.

In 2016, based on self-reported activity levels of in adults from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries (1.9 million people) while at home, transport and leisure showed that around 32% women and 23% men worldwide were not doing recommended levels of physical activity — 150 min of moderate exercise or 75 min of vigorous intensity per week.

Those in low income countries worked out more compared those in high income group. The levels of insufficient activity were 16% in low-income countries compared to 37% in high-income countries. Yet, in 55 of 168 countries, more than a third of population was insufficiently physically active.

The study urges governments to provide and maintain infrastructure that promotes increased walking and cycling for transport and active sports and recreation. “Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs),” says Dr Guthold.

What hurt doctors most in India, was more women were inactive compared to men. At least 44% of women reported insufficient activity compared to 25% men.