Starrys Obazei/October 20, 2022.

World Health Organization has predicted that between 2020 and 2030, almost 500 million people might develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes, or other non-communicable diseases attributable to physical inactivity

And the WHO said that if governments did not take urgent action to encourage more physical activity among their populations, this would cost health-care systems worldwide $27 billion annually.

According to the WHO’s global status report on physical activity 2022, data from 194 countries show that overall progress is slow and that countries need to accelerate the development and implementation of policies to increase levels of physical activity and thereby prevent diseases and reduce the burden on already overwhelmed health care systems.

“Less than 50 per cent of countries have a national physical activity policy, of which less than 40 per cent are operational.

“Only 30 per cent 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 per cent of countries monitor physical activity among adolescents, and less than 30 per cent monitor physical activity in children under-five 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 global health body said.

Reacting, the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said there was a need for more countries to scale up implementation of policies to support people to be more active through walking, cycling, sport, and other physical activity. 

“The benefits are huge, not only for the physical and mental health of individuals, but also for societies, environments, and economies,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus, adding that “we hope countries and partners will use this report to build more active, healthier, and fairer societies for all.”

“We are missing globally-approved indicators to measure access to parks, cycle lanes, foot paths – even though we know that data do exist in some countries. Consequently, we cannot report or track the global provision of infrastructure that will facilitate increases in physical activity,” said Head of WHO Physical Activity Unit, Fiona Bull.

“It can be a vicious circle, no indicator and no data leads to no tracking and no accountability, and then too often, to no policy and no investment. What gets measured gets done, and we have some way to go to comprehensively and robustly track national actions on physical activity,” Bull added.

The report calls for countries to prioritize physical activity as key to improving health and tackling the NCDs, integrate physical activity into all relevant policies and develop tools, guidance and training to improve implementation. 

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