Physical inactivity: Over 500 million people at risk of heart ailment, obesity, diabetes – WHO

The World Health Organisation WHO, has predicted that between 2020 and 2030, approximately 500 million people globally might either develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes, or other non-communicable diseases linked to physical inactivity.

The scary statistics was gleaned from WHO’s Global Status Report on Physical Activity 2022 which assesses how well governments are putting suggestions to boost physical activity across board for people of all ages and abilities.

It put the cost implication at $27million annually, if governments at various levels fail to take immediate steps to encourage more physical activity among their citizens.

The UN agency also hinted that data from 194 nations demonstrate that, overall, progress is modest and that, in order to boost levels of physical activity, prevent disease, and lessen the load on already overburdened health care systems, countries must speed up policy creation and implementation.

It noted that less than 50% of countries have a national physical activity policy, of which less than 40% are operational. Only 30% of countries have national physical activity guidelines for all age groups

“While nearly all countries report a system for monitoring physical activity in adults, 75% of countries monitor physical activity among adolescents, and less than 30% monitor physical activity in children under 5 years

“In policy areas that could encourage active and sustainable transport, only just over 40% of countries have road design standards that make walking and cycling safer,” the report added.

Meanwhile, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said more countries are required to scale up implementation of policies to support people to be more active through walking, cycling, sport, and other physical activity.

He described the benefits as huge, not only for the physical and mental health of individuals, but for societies, environments, and economies at large.

“We hope countries and partners will use this report to build more active, healthier, and fairer societies for all.

“The economic burden of physical inactivity is significant and the cost of treating new cases of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will reach nearly US$ 300 billion by 2030, around US$ 27 billion annually,” WHO noted.

It also noted that whilst national policies to tackle NCDs and physical inactivity have increased in recent years, currently 28% of policies are reported to be lacking funding or implemented.

Considered a “best buy” for motivating populations to combat NCDs, the report showed that only just over 50% of countries ran a national communications campaign, or organised mass participation physical activity events in the last two years.

The forecast noted that the COVID-19 pandemic not only stalled these initiatives, but it impacted negatively on policy implementation which has widened inequities in access to and, opportunities for, engaging in physical activity for many communities.

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