These are the world's most active and inactive nations

Ebony Scott
September 8, 2018

"Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health", lead author Regina Guthold said in a journal news release. The study reveals that countries having high-income, including the United Kingdom, were among the least active leading to higher risk of health issues like heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer.

Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, south Asia, and high-income Western countries recorded the highest levels of physical inactivity in 2016, while men in Oceania, east and southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa recorded the lowest levels. Half as many people are sufficiently active in affluent countries as in the developing world, where many people still labour every day.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable disease, negatively impacting mental health and overall quality of life. The data show that if current trends continue, the 2025 global activity target of a 10 per cent relative reduction in insufficient physical activity will not be met.

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

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Worldwide the prevalence of inactivity was 27.5 percent in 2016.

"Although high-income countries have a higher prevalence of insufficient physical activity, it is important to note that low- and middle-income countries still bear the larger share of the global disease burden of physical inactivity".

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Steven Ward, chief executive of the charity UK Active, said: "Inactivity is the cause of 20,000 premature deaths in the UK each..." Among low-income countries, there was only a 0.2 percent increase in physical inactivity, from 16 percent to 16.2 percent.

The difference in inactivity also was notable between the sexes - 23.4 percent among men vs. 31.7 percent among women.

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"With our partners, we're working to get the nation moving more through supporting social and physical environments that foster healthier, active lifestyles and through our physical activity work". As a next step the researchers would work on assessing the levels of activities among the children and youth.

"Policies to increase population levels of physical activity need to be prioritised and scaled up urgently", it added.

The results suggested "that improving sidewalks was not sufficient to increase physical activity among those who are inactive, whereas for those who are already active, living near improved sidewalks was associated with increases in reported leisure-time and walking activity".

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