Every move counts towards better health

Monday, 30 November 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes five million deaths a year could be avoided if the global population was more active.

In a year, when many of us have been housebound due to COVID-19, WHO launched new guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

They have emphasized that everyone, of all ages and abilities, can be physically active and that every movement counts.

Recommended activity

The new guidelines recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity a week for adults. This includes people living with chronic conditions (including diabetes) or disability.

The recommendation for children and adolescents was an average of 60 minutes a day.

WHO statistics show that 1 in 4 adults, and 4 out of 5 adolescents, don’t get enough physical activity.

The cost of inactivity

Globally this is estimated to cost US$54 billion in direct health care and another US$14 billion to lost productivity.

The guidelines encourage women to maintain regular physical activity throughout pregnancy and post-delivery.

They also highlight the valuable health benefits of physical activity for people living with disabilities.

Older adults (aged 65 years or older) are advised to add activities which emphasize balance, coordination and muscle strength to help prevent falls and improve health.

Health benefits come from moving

Regular physical activity is key to preventing and helping to manage heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer.

It also helps reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and cognitive decline because it improves memory and boosts brain health.

“Being physically active is critical for health and well-being. It can help to add years to life and life to years,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“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. It can be done as part of work, sport, leisure or transport (walking, wheeling and cycling).

It can also come through dance, play and everyday household tasks, like gardening and cleaning.

“Physical activity of any type, and duration can improve health and wellbeing, but more is always better,” said WHO Director of Health Promotion Dr Ruediger Krech.

“If you spend a lot of time sitting still, at work or school, you should move to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behaviour.”

The new guidelines highlight the importance of activity for our hearts, bodies and minds, as well as the positive benefits for everyone, of all ages and abilities.

The new WHO guidelines can be viewed here.

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