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The Washington Times
An estimated 1.4 billion people globally don't exercise enough, increasing their risk for a number of diseases including diabetes, heart attack, stroke and some cancers, according to a global report published Tuesday.
Rates of physical activity are largely unchanged since 2001, in some cases worsening and with large disparities between men and women, the report said.
"Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide," Dr. Regina Guthold of the World Health Organization, the study's lead author, said in a statement. "Over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health."
Accepted recommendations of movement per week are 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity. Yet among the global population, one in three women (32 percent) and one in four men (23 percent) fail to meet these requirements.
High-income countries had insufficient physical activity two times higher than low-income countries and that rate increased by five percent between 2001 and 2016.
In Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, more than half of all adults have insufficient physical activity. About 40 percent of adults in the U.S. and 36 percent in the U.K. don't meet the minimum requirement for exercise.
"Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases," Dr. Guthold said.
The researchers looked at data from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries, which included 1.9 million participants. Among their results, they found a large disparity between the amount of inactivity among high-income countries (37 percent) compared to low-income countries (16 percent).
The researchers point out that as countries prosper, the amount of occupation and domestic activity decline as more people work sedentary jobs, technology increases, public transport is more accessible and personal vehicles are more attainable.
In Western countries for example, physical inactivity increased from 31 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2016. Among low-income countries, there was only a 0.2 percent increase in physical inactivity, from 16 percent to 16.2 percent.
In east and southeast Asia however, physical inactivity decreased from 26 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2016, largely due to increased exercise among the Chinese population, the authors noted.
The report, published in the journal The Lancet Global Health, is the first and largest study to look at rates of exercise among the global population and comes ahead of a United Nations meeting at the end of September on risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
In its Global Action Plan issued in June, WHO outlined its goal to help decrease overall physical inactivity in the world by 10 percent before 2025, but warned in its latest report that this goal won't be reached if current trends continue.
About three-quarters of countries have a policy or action plan to increase physical activity among its citizens, but few have been implemented or made a substantial impact, said Dr. Fiona Bull of WHO, a co-author of the report.
"Countries will need to improve policy implementation to increase physical activity opportunities and encourage more people to be physically active," Dr. Bull said in the statement.
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