Four in every 100 deaths in Kenya are due to physical inactivity, a new report shows.
This is according to a survey in 313 countries by The Global Observatory for Physical Activity, a council of physical activity researchers, assessing the levels of involvement of individuals globally.
Prof Harold Kohl of The University of Texas Health Science Centre and who was one of the authors of the report, has asked countries to prioritise policies that encourage better lifestyles through food and exercise to ensure healthier lifestyles.
“Physical inactivity should be considered an urgent public health problem,” said Kohl, who was part of the research team that also found out that men in Kenya are more active than women.
Vincent Onywera, a senior lecturer at Kenyatta University’s Recreation Department, attributed this trend to a society where men take up most of the manual jobs.
According to these lifestyle experts, more than five million deaths globally per year are due to lack of physical activities and are common in rich and poor countries.
Four of the 10 most physically active countries in the world are concentrated in South and Southeast Asia, and five of the least active countries are located in Europe, the study revealed.
Dr Onywera demystified the notion that keeping fit is a reserve for children, adding that even for adults, an active lifestyle is beneficial.
“This is corroborated by a socio-cultural belief where men should show masculinity and women should be docile and not involved in activities that demand energy,” said Onywera.
When the girl is exempted from some sports in school, it affects their lifestyles, thereafter predisposing them to non-communicable diseases like diabetes, some forms of cancer and heart disease. According to Onywera, these conditions share four risk factors that include physical inactivity, poor diet, tobacco use and harmful consumption of alcohol.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires use of energy. WHO further cites unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity as leading global risks to health.
Noting that healthy dietary practices start early in life with breastfeeding that fosters healthy growth and improves cognitive development, the WHO also estimates that the lack of exercise is the main cause for approximately 21 to 25 per cent of breast and colon cancers, 27 per cent of diabetes and approximately 30 per cent of heart diseases.
The researchers also assessed the availability of public policies that encourage physical activities and found that 37 countries had specific national plans for the promotion of physical activity and another 65 had plans for preventing non-communicable diseases.
The shift in dietary patterns has been attributed to increased production of processed food, rapid urbanisation and changing lifestyles which have led to countries drawing road maps towards healthier nations.
Onywera cited some of the accrued benefits for participating in regular and adequate physical activity as reduction in the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and depression. Regular exercises also improves bones and functional health and is a form of weight control.