At least 34 per cent of India’s population is insufficiently active, a new Lancet study published online on Tuesday has said. The levels of insufficient activity were higher among women at 48 per cent, while the prevalence was 22 per cent among men.
In 2016, around one in three women (32 per cent) and one in four men (23per cent) worldwide were not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity to stay healthy — which is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
The study was undertaken by researchers from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and published in the Lancet Global Health journal. Dr Regina Guthold of WHO, Switzerland, and main author of the study told The Indian Express that cities needed to be more “walk friendly” and more opportunities for physical activity in public open spaces and parks in workplaces need to be created.
In 2016, India ranked 52nd (with 1 being the most inactive, and 168 being the most active) among 168 countries, which means India is in the top third of inactive countries. Researchers in their analysis included data from nearly 2 million participants (representing 96per cent of the global population), which shows that globally, in 2016, more than a quarter of all adults was not getting enough physical activity. This puts more than 1.4 billion adults at risk of developing or exacerbating diseases linked to inactivity, and needs to be urgently addressed, Dr Guthold said. The study, based on self-reported activity levels, including activity at work and at home, for transport, and during leisure time, in adults aged 18 years and older from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries.
The WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (2018-30) provides a selection of policy options targeting different settings and population groups that can be adapted and tailored to local contexts in all countries. In wealthier countries, the transition towards more sedentary occupations, recreation and motorised transport could explain the higher levels of inactivity, while in lower-income countries, more activity is undertaken at work and for transport, according to Dr Guthold. “This is true in India while on the other hand poverty and undernutrition persist in some population groups, leading to a “double burden” of disease with persisting infectious diseases, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the rise,” she pointed out.
To counteract this rise in NCDs, lifestyle changes and inevitable declines in occupational and domestic physical activity need to be compensated through incentivising opportunities for transport and leisure-time physical activity, the study author said.
According to the study, there has been no improvement in global levels of physical activity since 2001. Worldwide, around 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men do not do enough physical activity to stay healthy. Levels of insufficient physical activity are more than twice as high in high-income countries compared to low-income countries and increased by 5 per cent in high-income countries between 2001 and 2016.
Women were less active than men in all regions of the world, apart from the east and southeast Asia. In 2016, there was a difference in levels of insufficient activity between women and men of 10 percentage points or more in three regions: South Asia (43per cent vs 24per cent), Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa (40 per cent vs 26 per cent), and high-income Western countries (42 per cent vs 31 per cent).
According to Dr Guthold, many factors may hinder the participation of women in physical activity in various domains, including at work, at home, for transport, and during leisure time. “Traditionally, women often have a workload in the home and caregiving roles for other family members, which may limit the time available for them to be physically active,” she said.