Girls are physically less active than boys, claims WHO report

-P Srinivasan I [email protected]

Jaipur: Globally, 81% of students aged 11-17 years were insufficiently physically active of which 77.6% are boys and 84.7% are girls, says World Health Organisation (WHO) in its report published in ‘The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health’ medical journal on November 21, 2019. WHO used the data from 298 school-based surveys from 146 countries, territories, and areas including 1.6 million students aged 11–17 years.

The prevalence of insufficient physical activity significantly decreased between 2001 and 2016 for boys from 80.1% in 2001 to 77.6% in 2016, while there has been no significant change for girls from 85.1% in 2001 to 84.7% in 2016.

In regard to India, 73.9% adolescents are physically inactive – 71.8% boys and 76.3% girls, while in 2001 76.6% boys and 76.6% girls were physically inactive.

The researchers have stated in the report that 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity is must. Dr Rakesh Hirawat of government ‘s Rukmani Devi Beni Prasad Jaipuria Hospital in Jaipur said teenage boys and girls have to stay away from gadgets and playing online, instead should play physically at the playground.

He said physical activity for 60 minutes in a day is not a big thing and adolescents can easily do it. They can opt for walking and doing yoga and can play in school. These days, cycling is gaining popularity and can do cycling.

Dr Hirawat said that parents should also support their children in doing physical activity which will reduce the health risks in future.

With increasing physical inactivity among adolescents, the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will increase. NCDs include heart disease, diabetes and cancers and NCDs account for 60% of all deaths in India.

The authors in the  report stated that consistent with available evidence, the data shows that levels of insufficient activity among adolescents continue to be extremely high, compromising their current and future health, and that small progress towards achieving the global target of a reduction of adolescent insufficient activity by 15% by 2030 has been made in boys, but not in girls. There is an urgent need for national and global action aimed at decreasing levels of insufficient activity, with a particular focus on adolescent girls, requiring strong government and stakeholder leadership to support the scaling of responses across multiple sectors. This data will help guide national planning of policy actions, with a particular focus on reducing inequalities between adolescent girls and boys.

Urgent action is needed now, particularly through targeted interventions to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity. Policy action aimed at increasing physical activity should be prioritised, and stronger government and stakeholder leadership is needed to support the scaling of responses across multiple sectors. Young people have the right to play and should be provided with the opportunities to realise their right to physical and mental health and wellbeing. That four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical, and mental health benefits of regular physical activity is not by chance, but a consequence of political choices and societal design. The contribution of policy actions that will increase physical activity will, at the same time, support achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Policy makers and stakeholders should be encouraged to act now for the health of this and future young generations, the report stated.

Inactivity was the lowest in Bangladesh (66.1%), followed by Ireland (71.8%) and the United States (72%), and the highest in South Korea (94.2%), the Philippines (93.4%), and Cambodia (91.6%), according to the study.


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