One of the promises that governments make to justify expensive sports events like the Olympics is that these would incentivise the citizenry into more physically active lifestyles. But the UK government, just to take the most pertinent example today, has abandoned its 2005 pledge to get two million more Brits into sports and activities like walking to work by the opening ceremony next week. To mark the occasion and its lapses, the medical journal Lancet has just published a global accounting of sloth. Spearheaded by the Federal University of Pelotas of Brazil, it analyses available data for adults across 122 countries, to conclude that a third of adults do not reach WHO guidelines for recommended levels of physical activity. Policymakers should take note because physical inactivity is a significant predictor of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, some cancers, poor skeletal health, some aspects of mental health, and overall mortality, as well as poor quality of life.
Prevalence of inactivity in India is only 15.6% as compared to 28% in Germany, 31% in China, 40.5% in the US, 62.2% in Japan and 63.3% in the UK. But the Lancet study emphasises that in low-to-middle income countries, (a) data is limited even as (b) substantial social and physical transitions are taking place. It finds evidence that falling occupational physical activity is usually higher in people with low income than in those with high income, and increases in leisure-time exercise are more common in people with high income than in those with