WHO published its first ever Global status report on physical activity. This report is a wake-up call which aims to measure the extent to which governments are implementing recommendations to increase physical activity across all ages and abilities; what progress has been made, and how to scale it up. The benefits of physical activity are tremendous, not only for the physical and mental health of individuals, but also for society, the environment and the economy.
The report paints a concerning overall picture, estimating that physical inactivity will cause almost 500 million people to develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes or other noncommunicable diseases by 2030 and will cost $27 billion each year. Yet, there is no increase in physical activity levels. Worse still, there has been a slight decrease. Where policies do exist, they remain underfunded.
Monitoring the implementation of the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity, the Global Status Report notes that the majority of policy indicators are currently not achieved by the majority of countries. In terms of figures, only 30% have guidelines on physical activity for all age groups, 47% have a national physical activity strategy, 52% conducted at least one communication campaign in the last two years, and 42% have a national policy encouraging active mobility. There is therefore still much to be done for countries to better promote physical activity.
The report also provides five key recommendations on how to move forward: strengthening whole-of-government ownership and political leadership; integrating physical activity into relevant policies and support policy implementation with practical tools and guidance; supporting partnerships and developing capacity building approaches; reinforcing data systems and monitoring; and securing and aligning funding with national policy commitments. Advocacy will play a bit part in achieving more and raising awareness on how physical activity benefits several aspects of society.
Overall, the report calls for countries to prioritise physical activity as key to improving health and tackling NCDs. The full report, its executive summary and country files, are available here.