500M people at risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, if physical activity not encouraged: WHO
A new World Health Organization report on Wednesday warned that almost half a billion people could develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes, or other noncommunicable diseases attributable to physical inactivity between 2020 and 2030.
"We need more countries to scale up implementation of policies to support people to be more active through walking, cycling, sport, and other physical activity,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.
"The benefits are huge, not only for the physical and mental health of individuals, but also for societies, environments, and economies."
It also points to inequities in access and opportunities for some communities to be physically active.
Data from 194 countries show that overall, progress is slow and that governments must accelerate policies on increasing physical activity levels to prevent disease and reduce the burden on already overwhelmed healthcare systems.
"We are missing globally approved indicators to measure access to parks, cycle lanes, footpaths – even though we know that data exist in some countries," Fiona Bull, head of the WHO's Physical Activity Unit, told a UN press conference.
She said that could be a vicious circle, as no indicator and no data leads to no tracking and no accountability, and then too often, to no policy and no investment.
While nearly all countries report a system for monitoring physical activity in adults, 75% of countries monitor physical activity among adolescents, and less than 30% monitor physical activity in children under 5.
In policy areas that could encourage active and sustainable transport, only about 40% of countries have road design standards that make walking and cycling safer.
The economic burden of physical inactivity is significant, and the cost of treating new cases of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will reach nearly $300 billion by 2030, around $27 billion annually, says the report.
The report calls for countries to prioritize physical activity as key to improving health and tackling NCDs, integrate physical activity into all relevant policies, and develop tools, guidance, and training to improve implementation.