Nearly 40% of South Africans risk deadly disease from lack of exercise

Women in particular need to pick up the pace when it comes to increasing their physical activity, says global study from the World Health Organisation

05 September 2018 - 15:03 By AFP Relaxnews
According to a study by the World Health Organisation, 38.2% of South Africans don't get enough exercise.
According to a study by the World Health Organisation, 38.2% of South Africans don't get enough exercise.
Image: 123RF/uatp2

More than 1.4bn adults are putting themselves at heightened risk of deadly diseases by not getting enough exercise, doctors are warning, with global activity levels virtually unchanged in nearly two decades.

A new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that a third of women and a quarter of men worldwide are in the firing line for killer conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer unless they up their physical activity.

"Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life," said the study published Wednesday by The Lancet Global Health Journal.

The WHO recommends each adult do at least 150 minutes "moderate-intensity" exercise — such as brisk walking, swimming or gentle cycling — each week, or 75 minutes "vigorous-intensity" activity — such as running or team sports.


The study tracked activity levels of 1.9m people in 168 countries across the world during 2016.

Researchers found there had been no improvement in physical activity levels since 2001, despite numerous public health initiatives extolling the benefits of exercise.

More than a quarter of the world's adults (1.4bn people) were insufficiently active, according to the data. This includes 38.2% of all South Africans.

"We definitely haven't done enough" to encourage people to exercise, the WHO's Regina Guthold, lead study author, said.

"We have seen basically no progress."

The study authors highlighted several worrying trends, including a stark divide in exercise rates between men and women.

Women still lag behind men in nearly every region of the world. This includes SA where  47.3% of women don't do enough exercise compared to 28.5% of men.

Additional reporting by staff reporter.