Public Health
Physical Activity

​​​Overview:

  • Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Physical activity has many health benefits, and can help prevent diseases.
  • More than 80% of the world's adolescents are insufficiently physically active.
  • Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.
  • Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight.

Physical activity defined:
Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement performed by the muscles and requires energy expenditure, including activities carried out while working, playing, performing household tasks or doing recreational activities.

Regular moderate physical activity (such as walking or cycling) has great health benefits for individuals of all ages. Individuals can easily achieve the recommended activity levels by being more and more active throughout the day in small and simple ways.

Types of physical activity:
  • Aerobic activities:
It is physical exercise that depends primarily on moving the large muscles of the body, such as the muscles of the arms and legs. It is characterized by an increased heart rate and a difficulty in breathing during exercise. Over time, this type of exercise can strengthen the heart and lungs and make them more efficient.
E.g. running, swimming, walking, cycling, dancing, jumping, etc.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities:
These activities promote and improve muscle strength and increase their endurance.
E.g. push-ups, sit-ups, lifting weights, climbing stairs, and heavy gardening, such as digging and shoveling, etc.
  • Bone-loading activities:
These activities help with building and maintaining strong bones, such as the bones of the legs and feet.
E.g. running, walking, jumping rope and lifting weights, etc.
  • Stretching
Stretching is a form of physical exercise that helps increase the flexibility of the muscles and the joints surrounding it, as well as improve their range of motion, and maintain their efficiency.
E.g. seated pike stretches (sitting with your legs straight, bending at the waist and touching the toes), Yoga exercises, etc.

Recommended amount of physical activity:
Following are the amounts of physical activity recommended by WHO for the various age groups:
Children and youth aged 5–17:
  • Children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily, such as walking, running, playing football or basketball, and cycling.
  • Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits.
This group is advised to perform the following:
o Vigorous aerobic exercise: at least 3 times per week;
o Muscle-strengthening exercise: at least 3 times per week;
o Bone-loading exercise: at least 3 times per week.
The children and youth with disabilities should talk to the doctor to know the types and amounts of physical activity that are safe and appropriate for them.

Adults aged 18–64:
  • Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week (or the equivalent).
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle-sets at least twice per week.
65 years and above:
  • Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. 
  • For additional health benefits, older adults should increase their moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week (or the equivalent).
  • Muscle-strengthening activities, involving major muscle groups, should be done on 2 or more days a week.
  • Older adults with poor mobility should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week. Such an activity can be: backward or side-walking, single-leg stance, or repetitive squatting.
Persons with chronic diseases (e.g. cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, or diabetes) should talk to the doctor to know the types and amounts of physical activity that are safe and appropriate for them.
 
Why physical activity is necessary?
  • Improves muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness;
  • Enhances the mood and mental health;
  • Improves bone and functional health;
  • Physical activity is fundamental to energy balance and weight control;
  • Helps smokers to quit smoking;
  • Reduces the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes, various types of cancer (including breast cancer and colon cancer), and depression;
  • Reduces the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures;
Physical inactivity is one of the key risk factors of death worldwide.

Guidelines for safe exercise:
Physical activity is safe for almost everyone. However, the following safety guidelines need to be considered:
  • Exercise regularly to promote your fitness;
  • Select the activities that meet your health targets and are suitable for your fitness level;
  • Increase the level of physical activity gradually;
  • Distribute and diversify the activities over the week;
  • Use proper protective equipment (e.g. helmets, elbow and knee pads, and protective eyewear during cycling);
  • Exercise in a safe place;
  • Check the weather.
FAQ:
  • Does exercise help lose or maintain weight?
Exercise burns more calories, which typically helps lose weight. The weight will be maintained, though, if the intake of calories is equal to the amount of burnt calories. If the intake of calories is greater than the calories burnt through physical activity, the person will gain more weight.
  • Do exercise breaks slow down fat burning?
It depends on the type of activity. In the case of aerobic activities, for example, it is necessary to increase the heart rate to burn fat. As for resistance training, a break of 30-45 seconds is necessary for recovery and continuation, and hence fat burning.
  • Does quitting exercise convert the muscle mass into fat?
Quitting exercise, in itself, does not convert the muscle mass into fat. On quitting muscle-strengthening exercises, though, fat quickly accumulates on the muscle mass (especially in the arms, hips and legs) as a result of the lack of physical activity, the slowing metabolism, and the excessively high intake of calories.

Myths & Truths:
  • Physical activity is costly, since it requires special equipment, shoes and places.
Physical activity can be performed virtually everywhere. To perform such an activity, you don't need special equipment. Besides, household activities (such as carrying firewood, books or children) are considered to be good complementary physical activities. Using stairs, instead of elevators, is another example of the health everyday activities.
  • Physical activity is time-consuming.
A regular 30-minute exercise session, five days per week, would be sufficient for protecting and improving your health.
  • If you don’t sweat, you don’t exercise enough.
Sweating does not depend on the level of physical activity only, but also the surrounding environment; which means that physical activity should not be measured by the amount of sweat.



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Last Update 11 December 2019 08:55 AM
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