Up to 5 million deaths per year could be averted if people around the world were more active, according to the new “WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour” report released Nov. 24 by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The report offered new physical activity guidelines of at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults, including people living with chronic conditions or disability.
The guidelines also recommend an average of 60 minutes per day of activity for children and adolescents. The last time WHO offered physical activity guidelines was in 2010.
One in four adults and four out of five adolescents do not get enough physical activity, leading to an estimated cost of $54 billion in direct health care and another $14 billion to lost productivity, according to the report.
The guidelines encourage women to maintain regular physical activity throughout pregnancy and post-delivery. They also highlight the health benefits of physical activity for people living with disabilities.
Older adults (aged 65 years or older) are advised to add activities that emphasize balance, coordination and muscle strengthening to help prevent falls and improve health.
(Two of the major factors in healthy ageing are lung capacity and muscle-tone and co-ordination.)
The report noted that regular physical activity is key to preventing and helping to manage heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, as well as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, reducing cognitive decline, improving memory and boosting brain health.
“Being physically active is critical for health and well-being,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a media release. “It can help to add years to life and life to years. Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must all move every day – safely and creatively.”
All physical activity is beneficial. The report says that walking, wheeling and cycling, dance, play and everyday household tasks, such as gardening and cleaning, can make up exercise time
“Physical activity of any type, and any duration can improve health and well-being, but more is always better, and if you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behavior,” said Dr. Ruediger Krech, director of health promotion for WHO.
WHO encourages countries to adopt the global guidelines to develop national health policies in support of the WHO Global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030. The plan was agreed to by global health leaders at the 71st World Health Assembly in 2018 to reduce physical inactivity by 15 percent by 2030.