The UN health agency said in a new advocacy brief with the theme, ’Fair Play: Building a strong physical activity system for more active people’ that up to five million premature deaths a year could be prevented if the global population was more active.
The brief was released during WHO’s final webinar in a series convened to discuss the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on sport and physical activity.
According to WHO, many people live in areas with little or no access to spaces where they can safely walk, run, cycle or engage in other physical activities and where opportunities do exist, older adults or people with disabilities may simply not have access to them.
In the brief the global body urged decision-makers across the health, sport, education and transport sectors, to promote the benefits more.
“There is an urgent need to provide people with better opportunities to live active healthy lives.”
“Today, the possibility for people to take part in physical activity is uneven and unfair.
“This inequity has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO Deputy Director-General, Zsuzsanna Jakab.
WHO statistics reveal that one in four adults, and four out of five adolescents, do not get enough physical activity.
Women are less active than men, with more than an eight per cent difference at the global level (32 per cent men, just 23 per cent for women).
High income countries are home to more inactive people (37 per cent), compared with middle income (26 per cent) and low-income countries (16 per cent).
WHO guidelines recommend adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week while children and adolescents should do an average of 60 minutes per day.
The brief highlights the main challenges and opportunities and calls for all partners to strengthen collaborations and support countries to scale up actions in this area.
Solutions that work include sustained community campaigns, inclusive programmes in local communities, and safer environments that support more walking and cycling, for everyone.
The Head of the Physical Activity Unit at WHO, Fiona Bull, said that the brief “provides clear messages to all who work, to create a more active society”.
“WHO is calling for industries, civil society and governments, as well as UN agencies, to build a common vision for creating more active societies through sport, walking, cycling and playing,” she added.
The agency identifies three key actions: stronger partnerships across sectors; stronger governance structures and regulations; as well as broader, deeper, and innovative financing mechanisms.
The advocacy brief responds to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for sport and physical activity to broaden its contribution to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
The agency also encourages countries to implement the policy actions outlined in the WHO Global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030 to achieve the target of an increase in physical activity by 15 per cent by 2030. (NAN)