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883.Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants

Research Article
Guthold, R., Stevens, G.A., Riley, L.M. and Bull, F.C.
September 2018

Commentary by: Dr Melody Ding, Senior Research Fellow Public Health, University of Sydney

In this article, Guthold et al from the WHO estimated the 2016 prevalence and trends of insufficient physical activity based on data from 358 surveys across 168 countries, including nearly 2 million people. This study provides the most comprehensive global physical activity surveillance data thus far. Findings suggest that more than a quarter of the world’s population is not sufficiently active.

The prevalence of insufficient physical activity differed noticeably by country, and particularly by country income groups. Compared with low-income countries (16.2%), the prevalence in high-income countries was more than twice as high (36.8%) and showed an increasing trend over time. At the regional level, Latin America and Caribbean (39.1%), high-income Western countries (36.8%), and High-income Asia Pacific (35.7%) had the highest prevalence of insufficient physical activity.

Data also revealed a gender gap in physical activity participation, raising health equity issue worldwide. Globally, the prevalence of insufficient physical activity was 23.4% among men and 31.7% among women. This gender gap was observed in all regions but was particularly large in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (39.9% in women vs 25.9 in men) and South Asia (43.0% in women vs 23.5% in men). This finding implies that women around the world, particularly in specific regions, face more environmental, social and cultural barriers to participate in physical activity.

The authors also estimated the global trends of insufficient physical activity and concluded that there is a lack of improvement in physical activity worldwide from 2001 to 2016. This suggests that without more interventions, engagement and political actions to tackle the pandemic of physical inactivity, the WHO member states will likely not meet the target of reducing the prevalence of insufficient physical activity by a relative 10% by 2030.

EDITORS NOTE: Following the United Nations High level Meeting on NCDs in New York on 27 September 2018, and building on the momentum from the launch in June 2018 of the WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity, this article highlights the scale of the global pandemic of physical inactivity and points to a greater need for targeted advocacy to ensure member states embrace and implement robust national action plans to address physical inactivity.

Source: The Lancet Global Health

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