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Study prods Indians to get up and move

Study prods Indians to get up and move

The Lancet report has found that 38.4% of adult Indian men and 52.6% of adult Indian women are physically inactive, going by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines issued in 2022.

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Last Updated : 30 June 2024, 23:11 IST
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A report published in the journal Lancet Global Health on 25 June has flagged a major health concern in India: excessive sedentariness. It has found that 38.4% of adult Indian men and 52.6% of adult Indian women are physically inactive, going by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines issued in 2022. Even more worrying was that the numbers on physical inactivity had shot up from 22.4% in 2020 to 45.4% in 2022. If this trend continues, the figure is projected to go up to 55% in 2030. WHO recommends 150 minutes of ‘moderate-intensity’ physical activity or 75 minutes of ‘vigorous-intensity’ physical activity a week.

The concern here is that the WHO recommendation is not very onerous in the first place. Broken down, it means that people should engage in around 11 minutes of vigorous exercise or 22 minutes of moderate exercise a day. If 45.4% of adults are not getting even this quantum of exercise, we should be highly concerned and address the problem immediately.

The health burden of inadequate physical activity ranges from cardiovascular ailments and diabetes to musculoskeletal problems, compounded by poor posture, and cancer. The main thrust of meeting this problem must be social. The state can contribute, mainly by running awareness campaigns and issuing health advisories. But we must as a society change the way we conduct our lives, especially because the health burden has an economic effect that disproportionately impacts the poor. First, there is the obvious point that women are found far more inactive than men by a factor of about 1.5.

Since we don’t have a socio-economic breakdown of these numbers, we can conclude that women in general get less exercise because they have to take on a disproportionate amount of domestic responsibilities, often alongside responsibilities for work outside the home. This either confines them to the home or makes such great demands on their time that they are unable to make time for proper exercise.

But given that the prescribed amount of physical exercise is small and, one presumes, can be done at home, it is difficult to conclude that absolute constraints on time and opportunity is the cause of sedentariness. The fact that over a third of men, too, fail to meet the criteria underlines this argument. We must, therefore, infer that lack of exercise is an attitudinal problem that has been strengthened by technological advances that facilitate sedentariness in all spheres of life – work, socialising and play. But given the health costs of inactivity, we must put our best foot forward. The medical community must play a big role in spreading awareness of this significant problem.

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