New global estimates of physical inactivity – WHO, 2024

10 July 2024

Regular physical activity improves mental and physical health, reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.  

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018–2030 to help countries scale up policy actions to promote physical activity. Moreover, they set a global target of reducing physical inactivity by 15% by 2030 compared to the 2010 level. 

Unfortunately, findings from the latest global assessment of levels of physical inactivity reveal that the world is off track to meet the global target.  

To date, 31% of adults are physically inactive and this equates to 1.8 billion adults globally. Since 2018, when the last estimates were published, physical inactivity prevalence has increased by 5 percentage points.  

The recent estimates, published on Lancet Global Health, show that the levels of physical inactivity also vary by sex, age, regions and between and within country-income.  


  • Women are less active than men: female fell short of global recommendations on physical activity compared to male (5 points percentage); 



  • Physical inactivity increases with age: Fewer adults over the age of 60 years meet global recommendations compared to younger adults; 



  • Levels of physical inactivity vary across WHO regions: this report found that the highest rates were observed in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and South-East Asia Region; 



  • Finally, these data reveal a steep increase in physical inactivity in lower-middle-income countries over time.  


Overall, if these trends continue, global levels of physical inactivity are projected to rise to 35% by 2030 (38% in women and 32% in men). 

Physical inactivity is a silent threat to global health, contributing significantly to the burden of chronic diseases. We need to find innovative ways to motivate people to be more active, considering factors like age, environment, and cultural background. By making physical activity accessible, affordable, and enjoyable for all, we can significantly reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases and create a population that is healthier and more productive.” Dr Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO

This highlights the need to create a more active and healthier world through effective partnerships and resource allocation that prioritize investments in policy to enable all adults to be regularly physically active in convenient, safe and enjoyable ways. 

"Promoting physical activity goes beyond promoting individual lifestyle choice - it will require a whole-of-society approach and creating environments that make it easier and safer for everyone to be more active in ways they enjoy to reap the many health benefits of regular physical activity,” Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the WHO Unit for Physical Activity

Sources:

National, regional, and global trends in insufficient physical activity among adults from 2000 to 2022: a pooled analysis of 507 population-based surveys with 5·7 million participants


Nearly 1.8 billion adults at risk of disease from not doing enough physical activity

 

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