Move it or lose it: Real evidence on physical activity

In honor of the 2012 London Olympics, the British medical journal The Lancet published a series of publications about the state of physical fitness across the globe.

The series includes a plethora of new evidence:

  • One large-scale report collected data on physical activity levels for adults 15 years or older from 122 countries worldwide. It found that more than 31 percent of adults are physically inactive. The researchers found that inactivity levels rise as people get older, and the women are less likely to be active than men. It also found that physical inactivity is more problematic in higher-income nations.
  • A far-reaching analysis in the series uses advanced statistical methods of quantify the health implications of physical inactivity on the major non-communicable diseases in 122 countries across the globe. The authors concluded inactivity was a contributing factor to heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer. The estimated that 9 percent of premature death across the word were related to physical inactivity.
  • Another article provides a comprehensive review of evidence-based strategies for promoting physical activity. The review found that community and mass media informational campaigns helped encourage people to get moving. It also found that schools and worksites are good venues for promoting physical activity through education, sports and social groups. Finally, the authors found that finding ways to encourage activity within a community – including building sidewalks, implementing policies that encourage active transportation and building parks and gyms – are all good ways to improve physical fitness.

While the Lancet provides a wide range of data about physical activity across the world, the take-home message is a simple one:¬† It’s important to get moving, no matter what your age. Policy makers at all levels around the world should make it a priority to increase physical activity levels in their communities and countries.



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