WHO: Nearly 1.8 billion adults at risk of disease for lack of physical activity


New data show that nearly 31 per cent of adults worldwide, approximately 1.8 billion people, did not meet the recommended levels of physical activity in 2022. The findings point to a worrying trend of physical inactivity among adults, which has increased by about five percentage points between 2010 and 2022.

If the trend continues, levels of inactivity are projected to further rise to 35 per cent by 2030, and the world is currently off track from meeting the global target to reduce physical inactivity by 2030, World Health Organization (WHO) said. It has recommended that adults have 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or equivalent, per week, noting that physical inactivity puts adults at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancers such as breast and colon.

The study was undertaken by researchers from WHO together with academic colleagues and published in The Lancet Global Health journal.

“These new findings highlight a lost opportunity to reduce cancer, heart disease and improve mental well-being through increased physical activity,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general. “We must renew our commitments to increasing levels of physical activity and prioritise bold action, including strengthened policies and increased funding, to reverse this worrying trend.”

The highest rates of physical inactivity were observed in the high-income Asia Pacific region (48 per cent) and South Asia (45 per cent), with levels of inactivity in other regions ranging from 28 per cent in high-income western countries to 14 per cent in Oceania.

According to the study, disparities remain between gender and age, with physical inactivity still more common among women globally, compared with men, and with inactivity rates of 34 per cent compared to 29 per cent. In some countries, this difference is as much as 20 percentage points. Additionally, people over 60 are less active than other adults, underscoring the importance of promoting physical activity for older adults.

“Physical inactivity is a silent threat to global health, contributing significantly to the burden of chronic diseases,” said Dr Rüdiger Krech, director of health promotion at WHO. “We need to find innovative ways to motivate people to be more active, considering factors like age, environment, and cultural background. By making physical activity accessible, affordable, and enjoyable for all, we can significantly reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases and create a population that is healthier and more productive.”

Despite the worrying results, there are some signs of improvement in some countries. The study showed that almost half of the world’s countries have made some improvements over the past decade, and 22 countries were identified to be on track to reach the global target of reducing inactivity by 15 per cent by 2030, if their trend continues at the same pace.

In light of these findings, WHO is calling on countries to strengthen their policy implementation to promote and enable physical activity through grassroots and community sport and active recreation and transport (walking, cycling and use of public transport), among other measures.

“Promoting physical activity goes beyond promoting individual lifestyle choice; it will require a whole-of-society approach and creating environments that make it easier and safer for everyone to be more active in ways they enjoy to reap the many health benefits of regular physical activity,” said Dr Fiona Bull, head of the WHO Unit for Physical Activity.

The WHO said collective efforts based on partnerships between government and non-governmental stakeholders, and increased investments in innovative approaches will be needed to reach the least active people and to reduce inequalities in access to measures promoting and improving physical activity.

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  1. The World Health Organisation are fighting hard to regain their credibility after the Covid-19 vaccine fiasco – good for them!

    However, it will take a good few years – or a decade or so – to do so.

  2. @Brixtonian, I have to disagree with you on this one.
    WHO, PAHO and all such agencies have done irreparable damage to the worldover. People will be dealing with the fallout from the deception they perpetrated for a long time.
    They is no margin for error when it comes to people’s health.
    Never again will I trust these agencies, nor any vaccine the propose.
    I just hope they pay for the deception.

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