New WHO Guidelines Says Exercising Could Save Up To 5 Million Lives Every Year

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said regular physical activity, restrained due to the Covid-19 pandemic, helps in managing heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) has come up with a set of guidelines on physical activity, as scores of people are confined to their homes owing to Covid-19.

Stating that up to 5 million deaths a year could be averted if the global population was more active, the WHO in the new guidelines has recommended at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults, including people living with chronic conditions or disability, and an average of 60 minutes per day for children and adolescents.

The global guidelines, meant to be adopted by all countries, are aimed at preventing the menace of non-communicable diseases, which are recognized as a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality for covid-19. Such diseases may arise from sedentary lifestyle during the pandemic.

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WHO statistics show that one in four adults, and four out of five adolescents, do not get enough physical activity. Globally, this is estimated to cost $54 billion in direct healthcare and another $14 billion to lost productivity, the global public health agency said.

Regular physical activity is key to preventing and helping to manage heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer, as well as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, reducing cognitive decline, improving memory and boosting brain health, the WHO said.

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Welcoming the guidelines, Indian doctors have said that Indian needs may be different to prevent diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles. “A decade back, we were instrumental in formulating exercise guidelines, 45-60 minutes a day for Indians (mix of aerobic and resistance exercises).

These are more than what has been recommended by WHO, because Indian bodies need more activity to keep diabetes and hypertension at bay,” said Dr Anoop Misra, Chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology and National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (N-DOC).

The guidelines also encourage women to maintain regular physical activity throughout pregnancy and post-delivery. They also highlight the valuable health benefits of physical activity for people living with disabilities.

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“Older adults (aged 65 years or above) are advised to add activities that emphasize balance and coordination, as well as muscle strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health,” the WHO said. The guidelines emphasize that everyone, of all ages and abilities, can be physically active and that every type of movement counts.

“Every move counts. Especially now as we manage the constraints of the covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. The WHO said that all physical activity is beneficial and can be done as part of work, sport and leisure or transport (walking, wheeling and cycling), but also through dance, play and everyday household tasks, like gardening and cleaning.

“Physical activity of any type, and any duration can improve health and well-being, but more is always better. And if you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behaviour,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion.

WHO has encouraged countries to adopt the global guidelines to develop national health policies in support of the WHO Global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030. The plan was agreed by global health leaders at the 71st World Health Assembly in 2018 to reduce physical inactivity by 15% by 2030.

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