WHO’s commitment to physical activity and healthy lifestyle promotion through evidence-based resources

Lack of physical activity ranks as the fourth major risk factor for mortality, contributing to approximately 3.2 million deaths each year. In this context, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently introduced three key resources designed to champion physical activity and healthy lifestyles across diverse target groups.

A toolkit for promoting physical activity to older adults

Published on the back of the International Day of Older Persons (17 October 2023), the WHO published an evidence-base toolkit seeking to equip stakeholders with reliable information to foster greater physical activity levels among older people. The toolkit reviews key activities to enhance effective and sustainable approaches to providing physical activity opportunities for older people through:

  • Education and encouragement: by communicating why physical activity is important;
  • Engagement and support: by ensuring physical activity programmes and services meet the needs of older people.
  • And every day enablement: ensuring that environments where older people live, work and socialise support physical activity.

Recognising the importance of healthy aging, particularly in light of the ongoing demographic shift in Europe, EuropeActive has worked on this cause notably through the Active Ageing Communities EU-funded project, that developed full-fledged fitness programmes uniquely tailored to meet the need and preferences of older persons. Building upon the results of the project, a Good Practice Guide was published, presenting all the necessary steps for fitness clubs and instructors to successfully implement comprehensive fitness programmes specifically addressed to older adults.

A guide for active workplaces

Acknowledging the significant influence workplaces wield in shaping individuals' lifestyles, the WHO/Europe unveiled a new guide on October 30th aimed at fostering health-enhancing physical activity within small and medium-sized enterprises. Developed in collaboration with the HEPA Europe working group on workplace HEPA promotion, this new guide caters specifically to smaller entities, recognising the distinct challenges they may encounter in comparison to larger business counterparts. Offering evidence-based and context-specific guidance, the guide targets employers and provides insights to create environments that actively encourage active living. The core concept is to transform routine tasks into opportunities for health, suggesting initiatives such as organising walking meetings, fostering a 'take-the-stairs' culture, or promoting cycle-to-work schemes. With its structured approach, the guide supports business in championing the health of their workforce.

Therapeutic Patient Education: a guide to support self-management of chronic conditions

Lastly, on November 14th, the WHO Regional Office for Europe released a new ‘how-to’ guide for policy-makers, health professionals, and education and training bodies on 'Therapeutic Patient Education’ (TEP). The purpose of this guide is to equip decision-makers and healthcare professionals with the tools to enhance access to effective therapeutic patient education for individuals living with chronic conditions. Physical activity and healthy lifestyles play a prominent role as integral components of overall well-being, hence highlighting that physical activity has profound health benefits for various health conditions.

Addressed to diverse demographics, the WHO's recent publications share a common thread—the central importance of physical activity in maintaining health and well-being for all. From older individuals to the workplace and therapeutic settings, the WHO's commitment to promoting active lifestyles underscores the vital role that physical activity plays in working towards a healthier world.

WHO’s commitment to physical activity and healthy lifestyle promotion through evidence-based resources
EUROPEACTIVE, Ioana Marica 27 November 2023
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