WorldLack of physical exercise creates a new global threat, study warns

Lack of physical exercise creates a new global threat, study warns

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Doing physical exercise or playing a sport brings enormous benefits, not only on a physical level, but also on a mental level. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure and stress, helps control cholesterol and makes us rest better. However, in recent years the fight against sedentary lifestyle has stagnated, as published by the magazine The Lancet in a series of three articles on the topic. Globally, problems arising from lack of physical exercise and sedentary lifestyle are responsible for more than five million deaths per year, in addition to causing health expenditures in excess of 280 billion reais ―of which more than 160 billion come from the public sector.

The first two studies focus on young people aged up to 24 and people with a disability, two crucial population groups. The first, for the triple benefit generated by practicing sports: having better health today, in the future and in the next generation. In the case of people with disabilities, they are at greater risk of suffering heart problems, diabetes or obesity, so doing physical activity is a simple way to protect yourself. The third work analyzes the sports policies that accompanied the Olympic Games in recent years and the effect they had on the routine of citizens in the country where they took place.

According to the publication, the level of physical activity in adolescents has remained stagnant since 2012, and 80% of young people do not follow the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) to do one hour of physical exercise a day. About 40% of students never walk to school, and 25% spend more than three hours a day sitting after attending classes and doing their homework. The study also looks at screen use among young people in 38 European countries: on average, 60% of boys and 56% of girls spend more than two hours a day watching television, and 51% of boys and 33% of girls spend more. two hours a day playing video games. For Esther van Sluijs, author of this first study, “the data suggest that the use of screens is replacing other sedentary activities, such as reading books and magazines or listening to the radio, but it does not necessarily replace physical activity”.

Problems arising from lack of physical exercise and sedentary lifestyle are responsible for more than five million deaths per year, in addition to entailing health expenditures in excess of 280 billion reais

For people with disabilities, researchers have determined that their odds of not following the daily physical activity recommendations are between 16% and 62% higher. It is a large margin, which depends on the national income, gender and the level and amount of disabilities of each individual. “We need more studies focused on people with disabilities, as well as concrete and cohesive policies to ensure that these people’s rights are maintained and that they are allowed to participate in physical activity,” says Kathleen Martin Ginis, of the University of British Columbia, in a statement. (Canada) and one of the authors.

Avenida Paseo de la Castellana, Madrid, transformed into an exclusive area for pedestrians during the phase of withdrawal of containment measures by the pandemic. JuanJo Martín / EFE

The work regrets that major sporting events (mainly the Olympic Games, although the Euro Cup and the Copa America football held a few weeks ago are also mentioned) are not used by the organizing countries to promote the practice of sports by the population. With the exception of the 2008 Games in Beijing (China) and the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano (Japan), in no organizing country has popular participation in sporting activities increased. “Big events make people interested in exercise, but some may feel that this sport is beyond their capabilities or abilities, so we have to offer programs for people of all ages and activity levels,” proposes Adrian Bauman , researcher at the University of Sydney (Australia) and one of the authors of this work.

THE The Lancet also mentions the pandemic as a missed opportunity for sport. Although it became an essential activity in some countries during confinement, governments did not take advantage of this growing interest. “The first government campaigns during the covid-19 pandemic motivated the public to get out and exercise. Why then can’t governments commit to promoting physical activity as an essential human need, in addition to and independently of covid-19?” asks the article.

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Jesús del Pozo, professor of Physical Activity at the University of Seville (Spain), attributes this stagnation to the digitization of recent years. “Basically we are experiencing a technological revolution in which we have intensified the use of screens, and this implies that we are intensifying the level of sedentary lifestyle”, he says. For the researcher, this problem comes from afar, although it was accentuated with covid-19. “Children spend at least six or seven hours sitting,” he says. “The human being was not designed to be seated, and we develop our lives based on a sedentary lifestyle”, he concludes.

For Del Pozo, this study is a call to attention to the scientific world to point out the direction of future studies. “There is no evidence of how the transition takes place when you go from being an adolescent to an adult, nor what strategies we should follow”, points out the researcher. Del Pozo also suggests revising the WHO recommendations: “It may be necessary to re-examine the health impact of these guidelines. It’s not so clear that if you’re 18 years old and do more than 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week it will have a positive impact on your health.”

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