Physical activity is an important and essential aspect of our life to achieve optimum health and wellbeing now days. Physical activity simply means movement of the body that consumes energy. According to World Health Organization (WHO) physical activity is defined as ‘any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure’ (such as activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational actions -dance, yoga, tai chi).
It’s not only any particular type of physical activity which results in health benefits, but all forms of physical activity can provide health benefits if undertaken regularly and of sufficient duration and intensity. At all ages advantages of being physically active outweigh potential harm such as accidents.
The term physical activity should not be confused with exercise, which is the subgroup of physical activity. Exercise is planned, organized, repetitive movements carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness. Apart from exercise, any other physical activity that is done during leisure time, for getting transport to and from places, doing (paid or unpaid) domestic tasks or as part of a person’s work (lifting, carrying or other active tasks), and recreation has a health benefit. By becoming some active throughout the day in relatively simple ways is more beneficial than doing none. Some small changes in daily routine can make a difference. Taking stairs instead of elevators, walking or using bicycle instead of driving to neighborhood grocery shop, milk booth; such types of changes in everyday life can keep us healthy. Moreover, the health benefits of physical activity are maintained only with regular practice.
Regular physical activity is beneficial in many ways as it reduces the risk of non-communicable diseases- ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression. Additionally, it also prevents, overweight and obesity, and can improve mental health, musculoskeletal problems (osteoarthritis, osteoporosis), and balance and coordination in elderly population. Yet much of the population is becoming less active.
Physical activity has multiplicative health, social and economic benefits. Actions to promote physical activity will directly contribute to achieving the target of 15% relative reduction in the global prevalence of physical inactivity in adults and in adolescents by 2030 and achieving many of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Physical inactivity (or insufficient physical activity)
Physical inactivity (or insufficient physical activity) is one of the leading risk factors for various non-communicable diseases (NCDs), injuries and premature deaths worldwide. To individuals who are not sufficiently physical active risk of having cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer is 20-30% more compared to people who are sufficiently active. Physical inactivity also shortens the life span by 3-4 years.
Physical inactivity also burdens the society in the form of increased economic expenditure on medical care, loss of productivity and social dependence.
Globally, about 23% of adults and more than 80% of adolescents were insufficiently physical active in 2010. Physical inactivity is more common among wealthier countries and among women and elderly individuals.
Factors discouraging physical activity among people:
Benefits of regular and sufficient levels of physical activity:
Physical activity recommended by WHO for different age groups:
WHO recommends the minimum amount of physical activity for all age group for good health. It is advised that inactive people should start with small amounts of physical activity as part of their daily routine and then gradually increase duration, frequency and intensity over time. It is better to do some physical activity that none. The intensity of different forms of physical activity varies between people.
For children and adolescents ages 5-17 years-
For adults aged 18-64 years-
These physical activities are relevant to all adults aged 18-64 years, however individual adjustments are needed according to specific exercise capacity and specific health needs of an individual. Pregnant, postpartum women and persons with cardiac problems should seek medical advice before starting physical activity for this age group.
For adults aged 65 years and above-
Types of physical activities:
Activities classified as moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity based upon the amount of energy used by the body while doing the activity. The intensity of different forms of physical activity varies between people. The intensity of physical activity depends on an individual’s previous exercise experience and their relative level of fitness. Therefore, the examples given below are provided as a guide only and will vary between individuals.
Moderate- intensity physical activity
Requires a moderate amount of efforts and accelerates the heart rate.
Vigorous-intensity Physical activity
Requires a large amount of efforts with rapid breathing and substantial increase in heart rate.
Myths about physical activity
It is very expensive to be physical active as it needs equipment, special shoes, clothes and even you have to pay for sport facilities.
Physical activity can be done almost anywhere. Walking is highly recommended physical activity and it is absolutely free. Urban parks, or other pedestrian areas can be used for walking, running or playing.
I'm very busy. Physical activity takes too much time!
No. Physical activities can be incorporated into your daily routine such as at work, school, home or play. Simple things like taking the stairs, riding a bike to work or getting off the bus two stops before your final destination and then walking the rest of the way can form part of your regular daily activities. Even if you are very busy, you can still fit 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine in the form of 10 minutes’ brisk walk, three times a day; or 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes later that day to improve your health.
Children are already so active, hence there's no need to teach them about physical activity.
Children also need recommended physical activity in their daily routine. There is decline in physical activity among children these days. It may be due to increasing sedentary ways of life, spending more time on watching television, playing computer games, using computers, and fewer children walk or cycle to school, and insufficient physical education and other school-based physical activities.
More importantly, patterns of physical activity and healthy lifestyles acquired during childhood and adolescence are more likely to be maintained throughout the life-span. Consequently, improving physical activity levels in young people is imperative for the future health of all populations.
“Let’s be active everyone, everywhere, every day”