Ordinary activities like walking, cycling, gardening all help mitigate the ill effects of sedentary behaviour, says the WHO. (iStock)

Pandemic makes physical activity especially important: WHO

Up to five million deaths per year could be averted if people around the world were more active, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Regular physical activity is said to be key to preventing and helping manage heart disease, diabetes and cancer and reducing depression and anxiety, cognitive decline and boosting brain health. 

And the organization says everyone should get daily physical activity as outlined in its new guidelines including people who are disabled, pregnant or older. It recommends those aged 65 years and older add activities to help balance, coordination and muscle strength to help prevent falls and improve health.

The recommendations for daily physical activity include people with disabilities. (iStock)

Sedentary behaviour said to cost billions

All activities are encouraged and can be done as part of work, sport and leisure or transport such as walking and cycling. Also mentioned are dance, play and household activities such as gardening and cleaning.

The new guidelines recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults. Statistics suggest one in four adults and four out of five adolescents around the world do not meet this requirement.

WHO says this is estimated to cost over $70 billion in direct health care and more than $18 billion in lost productivity annually. 

‘Every move counts’

“Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement. “We must all move every day – safely and creatively.” 

Whether its for school or leisure, Canadian children have been spending more time in front of a screen. (iStock)

Canadian children less active in pandemic

The government of Canada has set out its own guidelines for physical activity for all age groups. They largely mirror those set out by the WHO.

Since the start of the pandemic, Canadian children have been less active, according to a study published in July 2020 in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical activity. It reports that only 4.8 per cent of children and 0.6 per cent of youth were meeting movement guidelines during COVID-19 restrictions. Children and youth were found to have lower physical activity levels, less time spent outdoors, more screen time and more sleep during the outbreak.

Those who exercised reported feeling good

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.

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