Majority of both learned and the illiterate population, presume physical activity to be purely scheduled exercises and so on. But, basically, physical activity can be defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure.
The most popular physical activities are; walking, cycling, wheeling, sports, active recreation and moderate sporting activities. . According to the WHO, statistics show that 1 in 4 adults do not meet the global recommended levels of physical activity. And that up to 5 million of deaths could be averted if the global population was more active.
It is estimated that people who are insufficiently active have a 20-30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. This is because, when one lacks regular physical activity, they are unknowingly inviting a lot of health risks to themselves. These could range from;
- Increased weight gain
- Poor cardio-metabolic health
- Reduced sleep duration and disrupted sleep patterns
- Cancer mortality
- Incidence of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 Diabetes
- Loss of bone tissue and strength etc
However, countless studies show that once an individual fixes physical activity in their daily routine, there are some overall and specific benefits that they will derive from it, including a general improvement in the quality of the individual’s life. These include;
- Prevention of diseases like hypertension and diabetes
- Improved sleep patterns
- Improved body composition, i.e. reduction of fat mass and instead increased lean mass
- Reduced risk of delivery complications in postpartum mothers
- Improves ability to do daily activities and prevent falls
- Weight management
- Reduced risk of depression and anxiety due to production of endorphins, which are ‘feel good hormones’
- Social engagement and fun while undertaking physical activities like swimming, cycling or any team oriented activities
For each individual, the need and type of physical activity varies depending with their age, occupation, underlying conditions and personal preferences. However, there are two main types of physical activities; Aerobic and anaerobic physical activities.
Aerobic activity is any type of cardiovascular conditioning. You probably know it as “cardio”. By definition, aerobic exercise means “with oxygen”. Here, your breathing and heart rate will increase. It can include activities like brisk walking, swimming, running, or cycling.
Anaerobic physical activity is similar to aerobic exercise but uses a different form of energy, quickly and immediately. Anaerobic exercises include high-intensity interval training, weight lifting, circuit training, pilates, yoga, and other forms of strength training. This type of exercise offers many health benefits generally.
WHO recommends for;
- Children under 5 years of age; At least 30 minutes in prone position spread throughout the day while awake, physical activity through interactive floor based play, have enough quality sleep including naps and no restraining for more than 1 hour straight at a given time.
- Children and adolescents 5 -17 years should do at least an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity, moderately aerobic activity across the week, incorporate at least 3 days of muscle strengthening activities and should limit the amount of time being spent sedentarily on screen.
- Adults aged 18-64 years should do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, or at least 75-150 minutes of combined vigorous and moderate intensity physical activity,per week. Also replacing sedentary time with light intensity exercise provides numerous health benefits.
- Adults aged 65 years and above should do the same as middle aged adults and should do varied multicomponent physical activities that emphasizes functional balance and strength training, of moderate or greater intensity 3 days a week to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls.
- Pregnant and postpartum women without contraindication should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.
- People with underlying conditions like diabetes, cancer, hypertension etc. should do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity.
To help reduce the detrimental effects of high levels of sedentary behavior on health, all adults and older adults should aim to do more than the recommended levels of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity.
To help increase the levels of physical activity, local governments can borrow from WHO’s action plan and ACTIVE propose policy options, and tailor them to local culture and contexts to help increase levels of physical activity globally.
These include; the development and implementation of national guidelines for physical activities for all age groups, establishing national coordinating mechanisms involving all relevant government departments and key non-government stakeholders to develop and implement coherent and sustainable policy and actions plans, implementing community wide communication campaigns to raise awareness and knowledge of the multiple health.
Moreso, they should invest in new technologies, innovation and research to develop cost effective approaches to increasing physical activities, particularly in low resource contexts and ensure regular surveillance and monitoring of physical activity and policy implementation.
In conclusion, global levels of physical activity have been dropping due to inactivity during leisure time and sedentary behaviors at work and at home. Also this can be attributed to increase in the passive modes of transportation.
Therefore, it is an individual’s choice and will to undertake physical activity, especially now that you can see the pros and cons of the same. Do you think from now on, you are going to begin considering physical activity as a routine?