As the coronavirus leaves many people housebound and many Americans sit to feast for Thanksgiving, the World Health Organization says people need to get more active, insisting that up to 5 million deaths worldwide could be avoided each year if people would run, walk and simply move more.
Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.
The UN health agency, launching updated guidelines on sedentary behavior, is pointing to figures that one in four adults — and four in five adolescents — don’t get enough physical activity, a situation that's complicated by the COVID-19 crisis that has shut up many people indoors.
It recommends at least 2-1/2 hours of “moderate to vigorous aerobic activity” for adults per week, and an hour per day for kids and teens. A lack of physical activity leads to extra health care costs of $54 billion per year, plus another $14 billion in lost productivity, WHO said.
The findings come as the Geneva-based agency, which is coordinating the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, released an update on “WHO Guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior” — building upon and expanding recommendations in the previous guidelines published a decade ago.
“Physical activity of any type and any duration can improve health and well-being, but more is always better,” said Dr. Ruediger Krech, WHO’s director of health promotion. “If you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behavior.”
Regular physical activity is important to help prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer while also reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and “boosting brain health,” WHO said in a statement. People aged over 65 should focus on balance, coordination and muscle strength “to help prevent falls,” it said.