Pillar 3: Physical Activity
Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure (WHO). It is essential to good health, and regular exercise can reduce the risk of many non-communicable diseases.
Pillar 3 focuses on the need for and benefit gained from regular physical activity. The pillar outlines the levels of activity considered necessary for an individual to remain healthy throughout their lifetime.
Lack of Physical Activity is the Cause of…
Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally (WHO). Approximately 6% of all mortality globally can be directly related to physical inactivity, and this figure is rising rapidly.
Globally, around 31% of adults aged 15 and over were insufficiently active in 2008 (men 28% and women 34%) (WHO). The current levels of physical inactivity are due to two socioeconomic factors: insufficient participation in physical activity during leisure time and an increase in sedentary occupational and domestic activities. To a lesser extent, an increase in the use of “passive” modes of transport, e.g., buses and cars versus walking or riding bicycles, has led to declining physical activity levels.
The reasons for these changes in behaviors are complex, but increased urbanization is likely one of the major factors that have discouraged participation in physical activity due to higher levels of violence, high-density traffic, and air pollution, as well as the ease of access to sedentary jobs and leisure activities in urban areas.
WHO Recommendations for Physical Activity…
In general, as outlined in the World Health Organization's recommendations set out in the “Global Strategy on Diet, Exercise and Health” 2004, different types and amounts of physical activity are required for different health outcomes. At least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity on most days reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer. Muscle strengthening and balance training can reduce falls and increase functional status among older adults. More activity may be required for weight control.
The World Health Organization's “Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health” addressed physical inactivity across three age groups: 5 – 17-year-olds, 18 – 64-year-olds, and those 65 years old and above.
Children and adolescents in the 5 – 17-year-old group, in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers, should:
Adults in the 18 – 64-year-old age-group, should:
Adults aged 65 years or older should, in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and functional health, reduce the risk of NCDs, depression, and cognitive decline:
When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.