Talking about curbing the rising NCDs in the region through physical activities, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said “Physical activity helps prevent non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, which continue to be leading killer diseases in the Region and a risk for severe disease and deaths in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic”.
The Regional Roadmap for implementation of Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA) was launched during the virtual meeting which saw the attendance of health officials and partners from member countries. The Regional roadmap aims to facilitate context-specific activities to achieve 10% relative reduction of insufficient physical activity by 2025, and 15% improvement in global levels by 2030.
Insufficient physical activity is a leading cause behind the rising risk of Non-Communicable Diseases across the South-East Asia Region where NCDs cause around 8.5 million deaths every year, majority of which are premature deaths.
The decline in physical activities can be witnessed across the globe proven in the statistics of meeting WHO recommendations for physical activity. Globally, 23 percent adults and 81 percent adolescents aged 11–17 years do not meet WHO recommendations for physical activity while in WHO South-East Asia Region, physical inactivity among adults is around 15 percent and 74 percent among adolescents.
“Countries and communities must take action to provide everyone with more opportunities to be physically active. This requires a collective effort, both national and local, across different sectors and disciplines to implement policies and solutions appropriate to a country’s cultural and social environment to promote, enable and encourage physical activity,” Dr Singh said.
WHO and member states have a flagship priority programme since 2014 to promote physical activities in an attempt to counter rising NCDs in the region.
Enunciating on the rising challenges to greater health and well being, Dr Singh said, “While there has been progress in terms of commitments, policies and programs for promoting physical activity face many challenges including modern lifestyles, unhealthy work-life balance, lack of enabling and safe environment such as road safety and air pollution.”
The problem of declining physical activities was further exacerbated with the onset of pandemic which brought forth restriction on movement and work from home mandates fueling the sedentary lifestyles further, in addition to imbibing mental health issues due to social isolation, fear, and uncertainty.
Offering solutions to ensure physical and mental well-being, the Regional Director added “Physical activity including yoga offer a cost-effective, non-invasive means for better physical, mental health and well-being. Including physical activity into daily lifestyle activities provides multiple health benefits, promotes societal growth, and provides long-term chronic disease prevention and treatment while improving overall global health.”
It was highlighted during the meeting that achieving a healthy population requires collaborative efforts from both the government and the society including multi-sectoral collaboration between ministries of health, youth, sports, education, urban planning, city administration, etc. to create an enabling and safe environment for physical activity.
“Together, we need to walk the talk,” she added highlighting the need to incorporate physical activities such as yoga and exercises in daily routines to achieve a healthy lifestyle.