GENEVA – The World Health Organization is urging people to get moving and keep moving for better health. The U.N. health agency says physical activity can avert the deaths of up to 5 million people annually.
WHO statistics show 1 in 4 adults and 80% of adolescents do not do enough physical activity, and women and girls generally do less than men and boys. This, the agency says, hurts both human health and the health of world economies.
The agency reports physical activity can help prevent heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer; as well reduce cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. It says physical inactivity also can put societies into an economic hole. The global cost of direct health care is estimated at $54 billion, with an additional cost of $14 billion in lost productivity.
WHO Director for Health Promotion Ruediger Krech says it is never too late to begin moving. He says any type of physical activity, including walking, cycling, dancing, household tasks and gardening can counteract the harm from sitting too long.
“WHO urges everyone to continue to stay active through the COVID-19 pandemic. If we do not remain active, we run the risk of creating another pandemic of ill health as a result of sedentary behavior,” he said.
New WHO guidelines recommend adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, and an average of 60 minutes a day for children and adolescents.
For the first time, WHO’s unit head for physical activity, Fiona Bull, says the guidelines delve into the impact of sedentary behavior on health.
“The evidence shows that doing a lot of sedentary behavior, often considered, for example, sitting, is detrimental to your health. It can increase your risk of noncommunicable disease, like cardiovascular disease … And the evidence shows that if we are more active, we can counteract the detrimental effects of too much sedentary,” said Bull.
The WHO guidelines also highlight the valuable health benefits of physical activity for those with disabilities. It advises people over age 65 to engage in muscle-strengthening, balance and coordination activities to help prevent falls and improve health.