Pre-Olympic call for global action on physical inactivity

July 18, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- The global issue of physical inactivity should be recognised as pandemic, according to a research paper published today in the prestigious Lancet medical journal and launched in a special pre-Olympics event in London.

Professor Fiona Bull, Director of UWA's Centre for the Built Environment and Health, and co-author of the first of a series of five papers on published in the Lancet's special edition issue, said much work needed to be done to address physical inactivity as a public health issue.

The paper, 'Global : surveillance, progress, pitfalls and prospects' presents new on current levels of physical activity and trends worldwide, alongside analyses that quantify the global impact of physical inactivity on the world's major non-communicable diseases.

The Lancet series also reviews why some people are active and why they are not, evidence-based strategies for effective , and how a multi-sector and systems-wide approach that goes way beyond health is critical to increase population levels of activity worldwide. 

Worldwide, around a third of adults (about 1.5 billion people) and four out of five adolescents are failing to do recommended amounts of physical activity, placing them at 20-30 per cent greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

"Societal trends are leading to less not more activity than previously, [and] with few exceptions, health professionals have been unable to mobilise governments and populations to take physical inactivity sufficiently seriously as a public health issue," Lead author Dr Pedro C Hallal, from the Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil said.

In the fifth paper, The of physical activity - a call for global action, Dr Harold W Kohl, from The University of Texas Health Sciences Center, said the role of physical inactivity continued to be undervalued despite more than 60 years' evidence of its protective effects and the alarming cost burden associated with current levels of physical inactivity worldwide.

This Lancet series highlights an incomplete and unfocused response to physical inactivity in most countries, which has often been understaffed and underfunded, compared to other risk factors for non-communicable diseases.

Professor Bull, a leading expert and advisor to the World Health Organisation, described as an issue that crossed many sectors and one that required collaboration, coordination and communication with many partners, including city and community planners, transport engineers, school authorities, recreation and parks officials, and the media.

She described Western Australia's now-defunct ‘Physical Activity Taskforce' as a good example that provided the cross-government coordination needed to increase participation in activity.

"The Taskforce was a leading role model on how governments need to act together across sectors in a coordinated way to implement strategies to address physical activity at sufficient scale to support lifestyle changes in the whole community.

"The recent dismantling of the Taskforce in Western Australia is a tragedy and we will pay for this decision in WA coming years," Professor Bull said.

The key authors of the Lancet papers argue for capacity building to be prioritised across sectors of influence, including health, transport, sport, education and business.  This was agreed to be particularly in countries with low-to-middle incomes where rapid economic and social changes are likely to reduce the domestic, work and transport-related physical activity demands of daily life.

Explore further: Physical inactivity kills 5 million a year: report

Related Stories

Physical inactivity kills 5 million a year: report

July 18, 2012
A third of the world's adults are physically inactive, and the couch potato lifestyle kills about five million people every year, experts said in the medical journal The Lancet on Wednesday.

More than 40 percent of patients with RA are inactive

April 3, 2012
(HealthDay) -- More than 40 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are inactive, with lack of motivation and lack of belief in physical activity strongly related to inactivity, according to a study published in the ...

News reporting of physical activity sends socially skewed message

July 28, 2011
A new study of television news reporting reveals the media neglect key risks of inactivity and fail to focus attention on the responsibilities of employers and government to foster greater physical activity among Australians.

2 in 5 adults with rheumatoid arthritis are physically inactive

January 26, 2012
A new study, funded by a grant from the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), found that two in five adults (42%) with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were inactive. Taking measures to ...

Recommended for you

Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers

August 21, 2017
"That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?"

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.