The Big Number: Many adults don’t get enough activity to stay healthy

Desiree Burns
September 10, 2018

The researchers analysed findings from hundreds of surveys that included 1.9 million adults, 18 and older, in 168 countries.

The activity level has remained unchanged globally in almost two decades.

More than a fourth of all adults worldwide - 1.4 billion people - are not being active enough to stay healthy.

"We definitely haven't done enough" to encourage people to exercise, the lead study author of WHO, Regina Guthold, told AFP. "We have seen basically no progress", she added.

The prevalence of physical activity in high-income counties is 37%, compared with 26% in middle-income countries. Guthold said this could be linked to more sedentary professions and motorized transport. For good health, guidelines call for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. A longer life, with fewer health problems, awaits those who get up and get moving.

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In four countries - Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq - more than half of adults were classified as insufficiently active.

But the data spanning 2001 to 2016 show the need for all countries to increase the priority given to national and sub-national actions to provide the environments that support physical activity and increase the opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, to be active every day, said the WHO. The advancement in technology has made people's life more convenient but also less active, said Ding.

Women still lag behind men in almost every region of the world, with the gender exercise gap highest in Bangladesh, Eritrea, India, Iraq and the Philippines, the study found.

In men, the lowest levels of activity were found in Oceania, east and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

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