One in three adults does not get enough exercise

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The World Health Organization (WHO) speaks of a “wake-up call”: Almost a third of all adults do not get enough exercise. This is an increasing threat to health worldwide, according to a study published on Wednesday.

More than 31 percent of all adults – or 1.8 billion people – did not get the recommended amount of physical activity in 2022. “Physical inactivity is a silent threat to global health and contributes significantly to the burden of chronic diseases,” said Rüdiger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion, in an online press conference.

To stay healthy, the WHO recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, such as walking, cycling, or even housework – or at least 75 minutes of more vigorous physical activity, such as running or competing in sports. A mixture of both also serves the goal. According to Krech, those who fall short of this recommendation risk heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, and mental health problems.

Big differences between countries
If the current trend continues, the lack of physical activity among adults could rise to 35 percent by 2030, according to a study published in the journal “The Lancet Global Health”. This would fall well short of the WHO’s goal of reducing physical inactivity by 15 percent worldwide by the end of the decade.

The research results are “a wake-up call that we are not doing enough”, said Fiona Bull, head of the WHO Department of Physical Activity. However, the extent of physical inactivity varies by country. For example, 66 percent of adults in the United Arab Emirates do not get enough exercise, while the figure in Malawi is less than three percent.

However, it wasn’t all bad news: Almost half of the countries made progress in the past decade, and 22 countries are expected to reach the target set for 2030 – as long as they continue to move in the right direction.

Political measures required
There are “numerous reasons” for the general decline in physical activity, said Bull. For example, people are walking less, working more on computers and looking at screens more often in their free time. According to the WHO, changing individual habits is not enough. It called on countries to encourage the population to be physically active – for example, by promoting sports clubs, walking, cycling, and public transport.

The study is considered to be the most comprehensive overview of the topic of physical activity to date. An international research team compiled the results of more than 500 studies on 5.7 million people in 163 countries.

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