Pandemic makes physical activity especially important

Exercise

In July, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) commenced work to update the 2010 Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health and established a Guideline Development Group (GDG) comprising expert public health scientists and practitioners to inform the drafting of the 2020 Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior.

A health report for the government of Canada's statistics agency found that during the pandemic, adults who limited their increase in screen time and exercised outdoors were more likely to feel they were in good physical and mental health. It stated that children must have at least 1 hour of exercise or physical activity every day. But any amount of physical activity is better for health than none, it emphasises.

The guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour emphasise that everyone, of all ages and abilities, can be physically active and that every type of movement counts.

But 30 to 40 daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise substantially lowers this risk, bringing it down to levels associated with very low amounts of sedentary time.

Adults (18-64 years) should do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week, for substantial health benefit, the guidelines say. People aged over 65 should focus on balance, coordination and muscle strength to help prevent falls, it said.

She also advised people to monitor their daily physical activity, as it can lead to motivation and can also give people a feeling of achievement.

"Being physically active is critical for health and well-being - it can help to add years to life and life to years", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement Wednesday. Nearly no improvements have been seen in physical activity levels over the past decade. 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.

And the organization says everyone should get daily physical activity as outlined in its new guidelines including people who are disabled, pregnant or older. "If we do not remain active, we run the risk of creating another pandemic of ill-health as a result of sedentary behavior". It also said that regular exercise will help people manage conditions of obesity, heart disease and also control type-2 diabetes. "We tend to underestimate how much time we spend sedentary".

"Those with low physical activity had a higher risk of premature death, with the greatest risk of death occurring in those with the highest sedentary time", the authors concluded.

While meta-analyses like this one always require some elaborate dot-joining across separate studies with different volunteers, timescales, and conditions, the benefit of this particular piece of research is that it relied on relatively objective data from wearables - not data self-reported by the participants.

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