The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent out a warning to all nations that people are simply not exercising enough. This means that nearly 25% of the population will be at risk for severe medical problems later in life. Experts say that the transition towards sedentary jobs in western nations has made workers very lazy and not motivated to exercise.
Despite awareness of the benefits of exercise, very little progress has been made in getting people to exercise. The latest WHO report reveals that nearly 1.4 billion people or a quarter of the world population, does not engage in any type of exercise. Tragically, this figure has not improved over the past 18 years.
There is significant evidence that a sedentary lifestyle can predispose the individual to premature heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even some cancers. The report from the WHO indicates that the highest level of inactivity was observed in people who live in high-income countries including the US and UK. The problem of physical inactivity is not limited to men but applies to both genders. In Britain, out of a population of 55 million, there are nearly 20 million citizens, both men, and women, who are physically inactive.
The WHO conducted a self-reported questionnaire in 168 counties that included 1.9 million people. Analysis revealed that the proportion of inactive people in both the UK and the US has risen by at least 30% whereas in low-income countries, the numbers have remained stable at around 16%. Individuals who were classified as inactive performed less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week. Unlike in the UK, it was observed that the level of physical activity was higher among the residents of New Zealand, Germany and some parts of the US.
Overall women were found to be less active than men in all but East and SE Asia, with the biggest differences in Central Asia, South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and high-income western nations.
The authors of the article believe that while there are many factors contributing to lack of exercise in women, two common universal reasons may be cultural attitudes and extra child-care duties that may make it harder for the women to exercise.
In western nations, there has been a gradual transition to sedentary jobs and easy lifestyle, along with access to a motor vehicle which may explain the high levels of inactivity. In low-income countries, the population is generally more active in their jobs, and many walk, bicycle or use the public transport.
If things stay as they are, the WHO 2025 deadline of lowering global inactivity by 10% is going to be missed. The current recommendation is that people need to exercise for at least 150 minutes every week.