Idle rich: wealthiest nations top the worldwide lazy list

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Idle rich: wealthiest nations top the worldwide lazy list

More than a quarter of the globe doesn't exercise enough, and high-income countries are the least active, a world-first study shows

Journalist


The world’s wealthier countries are largely inactive and unhealthy.
A new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO), published in the Lancet Global Health journal, revealed that highest rates of insufficient activity are more than twice as high in high-income countries like American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait compared with low-income nations.
Countries with the lowest rate of inactivity include Uganda and Mozambique.
The statistics also show that it increased by 5% in high-income countries between 2001 and 2016.
The research also found that more than a quarter of the world’s adult population were insufficiently active in 2016, putting them at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers.
It’s the first study to estimate global physical activity trends over time.
Worldwide, about one in three women and one in four men don’t do enough physical activity to stay healthy.
The data shows that if current trends continue, the 2025 global activity target of a 10% relative reduction in insufficient physical activity will not be achieved.
It also showed that women are less active than men in all regions of the world, including SA.
SA has long been grappling with the challenge of obesity, with the number of young South Africans suffering from obesity doubling in six years, while this took 13 years to happen in the US, according to research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers from KwaZulu-Natal and Wits universities, Denmark and England analysed the body mass index (BMI) of SA children‚ adolescents and young adults from 2008 to 2015.
“South Africa is undergoing rapid socioeconomic and demographic changes that have triggered a rapid nutrition transition,” they said.
There was also a rapid rise in the BMI of people between the ages of six and 25‚ especially women in urban areas of middle-to-high socioeconomic groups. The largest gains were in KwaZulu-Natal‚ Free State‚ North West and Limpopo.
The increase in weight was attributed to growth in gross domestic product (GDP)‚ more disposable income and increased exposure to globalisation.
According to the WHO study, in wealthier countries the transition towards more sedentary occupations, recreation and motorised transport could explain the higher levels of inactivity, while in lower-income countries more activity is undertaken at work and for transport, according to the researchers.
“While declines in occupational and domestic physical activity are inevitable as countries prosper, and use of technology increases, governments must provide and maintain infrastructure that promotes increased walking and cycling for transport and active sports and recreation,” they said.

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