Inactivity puts adults worldwide at risk of disease

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"If current trends continue, the 2025 global physical activity target (a 10% relative reduction in insufficient physical activity) will not be met".

In 2016, just under 20% of the global population - 1.4 billion people - were insufficiently active, the research conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found.

In fact, no improvement has been seen in worldwide levels of exercise since 2001, the report indicates, with high-income countries showing a 5% increase in inactivity levels between 2001 and 2016.

The average lack of activity in low-income countries was 16 percent, compared to 37 percent in high-income countries. In comparison, east and southeast Asia recorded the largest decrease in insufficient activity, from 26 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2016, which was largely influenced by uptake of physical activity in China.

Women were less active than men (23.4 percent women compared to 31.7 percent men).

Researchers analysed information from 1.9 million men and women who participated in 358 population surveys.

The WHO recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week in order to lower the risk of chronic health issues.

Shockingly, nearly 40 percent of Irish women didn't get enough physical activity in 2016.

The findings appear in The Lancet Global Health journal.

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Overall, Australian women are less physically active than Australian men - which reflects worldwide trends. Countries such as Bangladesh, Eritrea, India and Iraq registered a twenty percent or more difference in physical activity levels between men and women.

The activity level has remained unchanged globally in almost two decades.

Countries with the lowest levels of insufficient physical activity in 2016 were Uganda and Mozambique (6% each).

If adults were to become more active, they can improve their muscular and cardio-respiratory fitness, bone health, weight control and reduce their risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression and various types of cancer. This puts a quarter of the world's adult population at risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia and cancer.

'Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health.' she said. This can be, however, as high as one in three adults inactive in some counties.

In wealthier countries, the researchers said, a transition toward more sedentary jobs as well as sedentary forms of recreation and transport could explain higher levels of inactivity.

The authors said this was likely to have been caused by a combination of factors, including extra childcare duties and cultural attitudes that made it harder for them to exercise.

Guthold said that countries and communities alike can address descending levels of exercise by "creating new opportunities and programs to support and engage people to be more active".

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