Warning over global lack of exercise – particular among women

Warning over global lack of exercise – particular among women

More than a quarter of the world’s people are not doing enough exercise – particularly women.

A new World Health Organisation report estimates more than a quarter of people worldwide – 1.4 billion – are not doing enough physical exercise/ aerobic activity. The figure has barely improved since 2001.

Inactivity raises the risk of health problems such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers. High-income countries were among the least active and women were found to be more sedentary throughout the world, with the exception of two regions of Asia.

WHO researchers looked at self-reported data on activity from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries, including 1.9 million people, for their study in The Lancet Public Health.

They found in high-income countries, which include the UK and the USA, the proportion of inactive people had risen from 32% in 2001 to 37% in 2016. In low-income countries it had remained stable at 16%.

Those who were classed as inactive did less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise – or 75 minutes at a vigorous intensity – a week.

Good news for Kiwis: countries with an upwards trend included New Zealand but not Australia.

Experts said the transition in wealthier countries towards more sedentary jobs and hobbies, along with increased use of motor transport, might explain their higher levels of inactivity.

In lower-income countries people are more likely to be active in their jobs and walk or use public transport.

Dr Melody Ding, from the University of Sydney, who was not involved in the study, said economic development led to lifestyle changes that increase sedentary behaviour.

Governments could do more to help people be more active, such as improving public transport and making it easier to walk and cycle. The UK National Health Service, however, suggests the following exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds:

How much?

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles
  • break up long periods of sitting with light activity

What is moderate aerobic activity?

  • walking fast
  • water aerobics
  • riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking
  • skateboarding
  • rollerblading
  • volleyball
  • basketball

What counts as vigorous activity?

  • jogging or running
  • swimming fast
  • riding a bike fast or on hills
  • singles tennis
  • football
  • rugby
  • skipping rope
  • hockey
  • aerobics
  • gymnastics
  • martial arts

What activities strengthen muscles?

  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • yoga

What activities are both aerobic and muscle-strengthening?

  • circuit training
  • aerobics
  • running
  • football
  • rugby
  • netball
  • hockey


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