Health paper: As many as one in three adults physically inactive around the globe
Are you one of those people that continuously puts off going to the gym or pulls out of your commitment to your friends to join them for a weekly jog?
Do you try rationalize why you can’t exercise with mundane and played out excuses? We’ve heard them all — I have a headache, my back aches; my chest is tight; my favorite show is on; I don’t have time.
Or are you naturally slim and depending on your genes to keep you looking fit?
You may be on the other side of the spectrum and don’t want to do anything out of fear that may cause you to lose your shapely or husky figure. Maybe your significant other likes you with a little meat on your bones and you no longer feel the need to exercise.
If you fit into any of these categories, then you are one in four adults globally who lead a sedentary lifestyle and among an even higher percentage of Bahamian adults that report inadequate levels of activity, according to local and international reports.
New data published in The Lancet Global Health this month show that 28 percent or 1.4 billion people across the world are physically inactive. However, this can be as high as one in three adults inactive in some counties, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes in its press release on the health paper.
While specific statistics on The Bahamas is lumped with wider statistics covering the Caribbean and Latin America, the health paper points out that Bahamian women are less active than Bahamian men.
“In 159 of 168 countries, prevalence of insufficient physical activity was lower in men than in women, with a difference of at least 10 percentage points in 65 countries, and a difference of more than 20 percentage points in nine countries: Barbados, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Palau, Iraq, Bangladesh, Trinidad and Tobago, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.”
The, paper authored by four WHO experts, shows that the global level of inactivity in adults has been relatively stagnant for more than a decade.
“Prevalence of insufficient physical activity varied greatly across regions and income groups in 2016,” the health paper states.
“We found the highest levels in Latin America and the Caribbean, high-income Western countries, and high-income Asia Pacific, and prevalence was more than double in high-income countries than in low-income countries in 2016.
“In wealthier countries, the transition towards more sedentary occupations and personal motorized transportation probably explains the higher levels of inactivity. Conversely, in lower-income countries, more activity is undertaken at work and for transport; however, these behaviors are changing rapidly.
“National policy needs to be implemented to encourage non-motorized modes of transportation, such as walking and cycling, and to promote participation in active recreation and sports in leisure time. Such policies are particularly important in countries with rapid urbanization, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, which contribute to the high levels of insufficient activity, in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Effective policies include improved provision of cycling and walking infrastructure, improving road safety, and creating more opportunities for physical activity in public open spaces and parks, in workplaces, and in other local community settings.”
In its press release, the WHO points out that regular physical inactivity increases people’s risk of poor health, including cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer and diabetes, falls, as well as mental health conditions.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands yesterday said it’s not hard to understand why Bahamians are dying at an “incredible rate” from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
“The Bahamas is in the midst of an epidemic of NCDs. The top four are cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases. They certainly account for the top causes of death in The Bahamas and almost 60 percent of premature deaths are caused by them.
“Now when you look at the issue of inactivity, three quarters of Bahamian adults report inadequate levels of activity or what we call a sedentary lifestyle, according to the latest data.
“Add to that an 80 percent obesity rate and the 40 percent of adolescents who are obese or overweight and 70 percent of our adolescent drink more sugary, sweet beverages.
“Only 10 percent of our adults consume the recommended fruits and vegetables.
“Put that all together and what you have is a disaster in process.”
He said the government is doing a number of things in an effort to combat the epidemic.
“We are modifying the bread basket items. We are adjusting and encouraging a wellness initiative. We’re about to introduce tobacco legislation.”
He also pointed to the National Health Insurance and hinted at a national program geared at encouraging a healthier lifestyle that will be introduced.
Dr. Sands said The Bahamas has been trying to respond to the NCD crisis for more than one decade.
“Make no bones about it any progress in this battle is going to require that every single Bahamian look in the mirror and acknowledge that they have to change,” he continued.
“We’re happy to give advice and encourage you, but we’re not going get anywhere unless Bahamians act.”
Education: Benedict College, BA in Mass Communications