'Pandemic' of inactivity increases disease risk worldwide, WHO study says

Around the globe, about one in three women and nearly one in four men does not exercise enough to avoid comm...

Posted: Sep 6, 2018 11:57 AM
Updated: Sep 6, 2018 11:57 AM

Around the globe, about one in three women and nearly one in four men does not exercise enough to avoid common diseases, a new report shows.

At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week is the recommended level for adults, according to the World Health Organization. People who do not meet this guideline are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers, research shows.

Asia

Continents and regions

Demographic groups

Diet, nutrition and fitness

Diseases and disorders

Employment and income status

Epidemics and outbreaks

Exercise and fitness

Health and medical

Infectious diseases

Labor and employment

Low income persons

Non-profit and NGO organizations

Population and demographics

Public health

Social and economic status

Society

Southeast Asia

Upper income persons

Wealthy people

World Health Organization

The trend of insufficient physical activity levels worldwide is getting worse, not better, the new study published Tuesday in the journal Lancet Global Health reveals. More than a quarter of all adults -- 1.4 billion people worldwide -- were inadequately active in 2016, compared with 23.3% in 2010.

In fact, no improvement has been seen in worldwide levels of exercise since 2001, the report indicates, with high-income countries showing a 5% increase in inactivity levels between 2001 and 2016.

"Levels of inactivity are more than twice as high in high income countries as compared to low income countries, with an increasing trend in high income countries," lead study author Regina Guthold of WHO wrote in an email. "Latin America and the Caribbean, and high-income Western countries are the two regions with the highest levels of inactivity, and with increasing trends in inactivity."

The sedentary lifestyle

The new study looked at 358 surveys that collected data on nearly 2 million people who reported their activity levels both at work and at home. Participants included people 18 and older in 168 countries, an increase over the previous WHO study from 2010, which included only 146 countries.

The researchers made statistical adjustments to compare the newest estimates to those from all previous WHO studies. According to Guthold, the downward trend in physical activity found in the newest study cannot be explained by including more countries in the analysis.

In 2016, physical activity varied across income groups: Just 16% of people surveyed in low-income countries revealed an inadequate amount of exercise, compared with 37% in high-income countries. Uganda and Mozambique had the best records of exercising adults: Just 6% of adults in each of those countries did not do enough physical activity in 2016.

Wealthier countries have transitioned towards sedentary occupations, more recreation and motorized transport, and this could explain the higher levels of inactivity compared with lower-income countries where both work and transportation often require physical activity, the authors wrote. Declines in physical activity are inevitable as countries prosper and use of technology increases, they say.

However, while Western countries showed a slight decrease in physical activity, the opposite happened in east and southeast Asian countries, which registered healthy gains in both their economies and their exercise levels between 2001 and 2016. That region registered 26% of adults with insufficient activity in 2001 yet just 17% in 2016. This is largely influenced by China, the authors stated, with leisure-time activity rising in the most populated country in the region, possibly through increased physical activity and use of public parks among its growing elderly population.

A consistent gender gap in physical activity was found around the globe in 2016, excluding east and southeast Asia.

More women than men reported themselves to be insufficiently active, with a 10% or greater margin between the sexes in three regions: South Asia (43% of women inactive vs. 24% of men), Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (40% vs. 26%), and high-income Western countries (42% vs. 31%).

Large differences between women and men existed in the United States (48% vs. 32%), the UK (40% vs. 32%), India (44% vs. 25%), the Philippines (49% vs. 30%), South Africa (47% vs. 29%) and Turkey (39% vs. 22%).

Although the worldwide problem of inactivity is clear, the solutions are less so.

'Small changes,' not gyms

Walter R. Thompson, an associate dean and a professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University, said that the study's most important point is that "physical inactivity is pandemic and not a characteristic of low-income or high-income countries."

"It is prevalent in every country and has the same impact on chronic disease," said Thompson, who was not involved in the study.

"WHO admits that the current strategies are not working and that new tactics are needed to improve increasing physical activity in all countries," added Thompson, who is also a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. He noted that "public policy has not changed physical activity patterns."

In the United States, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created Healthy People 2000 and Healthy People 2010, 10-year target programs for improving the health of Americans. Both prioritized "physical activity and fitness," yet there's been "little to no change in the prevalence of physical activity," he said. "Americans are just not getting enough exercise.

"We cannot just tell people that they need to exercise more; it does not work," Thompson said. "Our work clearly shows that we need to demonstrate lifestyle modifications that can be adopted by most of the population and get away from sending people to gyms. Small changes in behavior, like parking your car in the last row instead of the first row at the grocery store or climbing stairs instead of the elevator, are just two examples."

Guthold said that countries and communities alike can address descending levels of exercise by "creating new opportunities and programs to support and engage people to be more active." She added that they can also improve environments so more people can walk, cycle or physically move in other ways.

However, changing physical characteristics of a community may not be enough: Gregory Knell, a researcher at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, recently published a study on whether improving sidewalks might lead to more physical activity. The results suggested "that improving sidewalks was not sufficient to increase physical activity among those who are inactive, whereas for those who are already active, living near improved sidewalks was associated with increases in reported leisure-time and walking activity."

"There is not one silver bullet to overcoming the physical inactivity epidemic," said Knell, who had no part in the new WHO study. "Our cities, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, entertainment venues and transportation systems have all been designed to promote physical inactivity." Avoiding exercise in all cases has become the "more convenient and easier" option.

"We need to turn this around and make physical activity as part of your daily life the easiest, most convenient approach," Knell said.

Guthold said that people who are completely inactive can begin with a little exercise and then build up their weekly exercise time. "Any activity is better than none, and more activity will provide greater health benefits," she said. "It is often easier to be active in a group, with family or friends."

Thompson concluded that the new WHO report "has global implications. All of us should read it and learn from it."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 363304

Reported Deaths: 6020
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin49267665
Cuyahoga35214736
Hamilton29462371
Montgomery19636225
Butler14472144
Lucas14033409
Summit12962310
Stark8529197
Warren798975
Mahoning7068299
Lake662766
Lorain623697
Clermont563946
Delaware540335
Licking535875
Fairfield523763
Trumbull5159144
Greene510563
Clark501064
Allen460685
Marion457751
Wood4394107
Medina428654
Miami416465
Pickaway396448
Columbiana339597
Portage334471
Tuscarawas317557
Wayne314993
Richland306732
Mercer284737
Ross239259
Hancock232736
Muskingum231910
Auglaize223230
Putnam221449
Erie217165
Darke217058
Ashtabula215753
Geauga197351
Scioto193615
Union18658
Lawrence185436
Shelby184815
Athens18454
Seneca173118
Belmont158529
Madison156218
Sandusky152327
Preble148421
Huron147518
Defiance137921
Holmes137739
Logan123613
Knox122518
Fulton122025
Crawford119116
Ottawa118930
Washington116427
Clinton103414
Ashland102722
Williams10238
Jefferson10124
Highland99517
Henry98422
Brown9644
Champaign9345
Jackson90312
Van Wert8976
Fayette89217
Hardin86118
Morrow8552
Guernsey83313
Coshocton81413
Perry77012
Adams75012
Pike7261
Wyandot70516
Gallia70413
Paulding62710
Hocking61011
Noble59722
Carroll44310
Meigs37612
Monroe31021
Morgan2395
Vinton2105
Harrison1913
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 34°
Angola
Scattered Clouds
34° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 28°
Huntington
Overcast
37° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 32°
Decatur
Overcast
37° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 32°
Van Wert
Overcast
37° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 32°
Snow/Rain Showers Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events