Why is it important to focus on improving physical activity among Indian youth?

50% Indians are physically inactive, less than 10% engage inrecreational physical activity.

Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are on the rise worldwide, and this has detrimental impacts on longevity, quality of life and economic prosperity.

That sedentary lifestyle and less physical activity is leading to several health risks is not unknown. Now, a report by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) shows that physical inactivity is very common in India. Around 54.4 percent people were found inactive during a study by the government agency.

The data further shows that males are significantly more active than females. However, people spend more active minutes at work than in commuting and recreation domains. Fewer than 10 percent engage in recreational physical activity. Physical inactivity is not just leading to a high disease burden and deaths, but it is also posing a major threat to productivity and contributing significantly to health expenditure.

One in five adults, and four out of five adolescents (11-17 years) globally, do not get enough physical activity. This physical inactivity is costing USD 54 billion in direct healthcare, a latest report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows.

According to WHO, physical inactivity (lack of physical activity) has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (6 percent of deaths globally).

Moreover, physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause for approximately 21–25 percent of breast and colon cancers, 27 percent of diabetes and approximately 30 percent of ischaemic heart disease burden.

Reason: Being active is a way of life, a cultural norm for children and youth from countries like Slovenia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, which have the most active children and youth overall. In Slovenia’s education system, primary schools offer access to 77 minutes of in-school, professionally taught physical activity each day

In Zimbabwe, over 80 per cent of children use active rather than motorized transport to get to and from school, compared to about 50 per cent of children using active transportation in India.

Reason: Even though there may be no other choice for Zimbabwean children and youth other than walking or biking to school, they see physical activity as an enjoyable and integral part of their lifestyle and heritage. It is a way of life for them

“Due to the population size and distribution, and the great diversity of geography, climate and culture, more data are needed to understand active living patterns in India,” 

Nevertheless, current data show that children in rural India seem to be more active than children who live in urban areas, perhaps a finding that is similar to Zimbabwe, where children and youth walk or bike as an integral part of their lifestyle,

Why is it important to focus on improving physical activity among Indian youth ?

“India’s children and youth will make up a major proportion of the world’s workforce and will drive the country’s economy. The benefits of physical activity have been well established and linked to better health outcomes, academic performance, and overall productivity,”

In around four years, India’s working population, consisting of today’s youth, is slated reach to around 87 crore, the largest working population in the world. The economic growth should ideally shoot up and we will earn what is called the demographic dividend.

“A highly relevant current issue is the air pollution in Indian cities and how it might be affecting the ability of children and youth to be physically active. Going forward, we need to gather data to understand this issue, and more importantly, develop policy interventions that lead to sustainable healthy, active urban communities.

Physical activity is a global problem and it is more severe in India as indicated , which will help in bringing higher focus on issues related to Physical activity and sedentary lifestyles and initiate discussions to derive effective solutions. Also at a global and India level, I think it is important for sports educators, experts and organizations to share ideas and implement programs to combat the issues,”


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