World Physical Activity Day

World Physical Activity Day

The World Physical Activity Day is celebrated every year on 6th April.

The World Health Organization (WHO) named April 6 World Physical Activity Day back in 2002 when the 54th World Health Assembly was being held. The theme of the 54th World Health Assembly was promoting physical activity. The day was inspired by the Agita Mundo Network; a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting physical activity.

The Agita Mundo Network was formed when a group of national and international institutions gathered at the 25th International Symposium on Sport Sciences in Sao Paulo, Brazil and agreed to form an independent organization whose goal would be promoting physical activity globally and coordinating the move for a Health Day.

The 54th World Health Assembly’s theme, physical activity had a huge impact internationally to the extent that the World Health Organization decided to make it a permanent event. Since then April 6th is known as the World Day for Physical Activity. To commemorate this day, a variety of events are held worldwide.

School trip walking to view Nipigon River Bridge
Niibin "summer" camp walk.

What is Physical Activity?

To be able to understand why physical activity is important, it’s important to define the term. According to the World Health Organization, physical activity refers to any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscles that demands energy expenditure. As a result, physical activity shouldn’t be confused with exercise. It also involves walking, engaging in household chores, recreational pursuits etc.

Global Statistics on Physical Inactivity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is a global health problem. The latest WHO statistics indicate that approximately 31% of people aged 15 and above are insufficiently active globally. The same statistics also indicate that approximately 3.2 million people die globally because of physical inactivity related reasons. Women are also more physically inactive than men globally and the East Mediterranean and America region have the highest number of physically inactive individuals globally. South East Asia has the lowest percentage of physically inactive people.

St. Brigid school basketball
Basketball at St. Brigid.

Reasons for Physical Inactivity

According to the World Health Organization, people are physically inactive today more than ever due to an increasing participation in sedentary lifestyles. Most people are involved in occupations that encourage inactivity. The increasing popularity of passive modes of transport i.e. cars, trains, planes is also to blame. Other factors include; poor legislation, insecurity and lack of adequate sports/recreational facilities.

How much Physical Activity is Recommended for Children and Adolescents?

The World Health Organization recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for children and adolescents between ages 5 and 17 years. Physical activity beyond 60 minutes is highly recommended because it offers greater health benefits. Children and adolescents should engage in intense physical activity that strengthens muscles and bones at least thrice a week.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Regular physical activity i.e. walking, cycling, engaging in sports has significant health benefits for individuals of all ages. In fact, the potential benefits of children and adolescents engaging in physical activities far outweigh the potential risks.

Some of the benefits of physical activity include;

a. Improved cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness

b. Improved bone & functional health

c. Reduced risks of suffering from; hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, depression, breast and colon cancer.

d. Reduced risks of falls and vertebral or hip fractures

e. Better weight control and energy balance.

Summary

Insufficient physical activity is a huge contributor to global mortality i.e. one of the top 10 risk factors according to the World Health Organization.

Physical inactivity increases death risks by 20 to 30%. Insufficient physical activity increases a person’s risks of suffering from non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Physical activity has been shown to prevent risks of suffering from non-communicable diseases especially when it is encouraged from a young age. The importance of physical activity among adolescents can’t be overlooked given the fact that over 80% of the global adolescent population isn’t sufficiently active.