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22 April 2024

How fit are you? Mideast world's most physically inactive region

By Bindu Suresh Rai

Physical inactivity is at the cusp of a serious global health crisis, with the World Health Organisation revealing alarming figures that place the Middle East as the most unfit region for young adults (ages 15-29) on a macro level.

Physical inactivity has been tagged as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, which is now responsible for more than 60 per cent of deaths worldwide.

Speaking at a two-day Ministry of Health and WHO joint 'Move for Health' forum, regional director of WHO, Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr Ala Alwan stated that final outcome would be the emergence of a new policy that will include the UAE from 34 participating countries pledging to reduce inactivity levels by 10 per cent by year 2025.

Speaking at the forum, Dr Alwan revealed the prevalence of non-communicable diseases on the rise as a direct correlation to physical activity levels, saying: "Our research shows that physical inactivity is directly responsible for around 27 per cent of diabetes, 30 per cent if heart diseases, 21 to 25 per cent of breast and colon cancers, all if which is now making this the fourth leading risk to global mortality numbers."

He continued: “The Middle East is the most physically inactive region in the world according to statistics, with nearly 50 per cent of women leading the charge. It is a major risk for non-communicable diseases and is the leading cause of death in the region.”

Shedding light on the policy that will be implemented as a result of the two-day forum, Dr Alwan said the main aim was to create awareness that continues to be a “serious challenge”, adding: “This needs to be tackled not just by the health sectors, but rather the civil societies need engaging, including the ministry of education, of sport, of transport to carry this movement forward.

“This policy that we will implement will develop a regional plan, which will ultimately guide a national plan that will be prevalent across the UAE.”

Dr Alwan said that a basic understanding of the term ‘physical activity’ should be communicated via the policy, which does not limit the definition to sport, but rather bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that use energy, including walking, cycling, dancing, etc.

WHO Fast facts

According to this global body, physical inactivity accounts of 3.2 million deaths annually or six per cent of all deaths worldwide.

Globally, over 30 per cent of people aged 15 or over are physically inactive.

Break this down further and men comprise 28 per cent of the above-mentioned number, while women are 34 per cent.

Aside from being the most unfit region amongst young adults, the Mideast is the second most unfit for adults globally and the highest amongst women worldwide.

Essentially, one out every two women and one out of every three men here is insufficiently active.

The WHO and the UAE are promoting that only 30 minutes of physical activity per day, across five days per week will reduce these alarming levels.

The new policy will highlight a seven-step programme that includes public education, whole of school programmes, community programmes, healthcare, sport for all, urban design and transport policies that facilitate walking or cycling to work.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)