One small step for a human, and a giant leap for humankind

Introducing the Physical Activity and Population Health BJSM Blog Series 

By Sonia Cheng (@soniawmcheng)

As you’ve likely read from these previous posts on the BJSM blog, the case to increase population-wide participation in physical activity is stronger than ever. And, like the unsung space heroes at NASA, who crunched the numbers and successfully launched humans into orbit and to the moon1, we as health professionals, researchers, and students play a pivotal role in developing and implementing strategies to address one of the leading risk factors for chronic disease and disability worldwide.

It is an honour to launch the new ‘Physical Activity and Population Health’  BJSM Blog Series. Throughout this series, we’ll bring to you the latest developments in physical activity research, resources, and policy in the area of public health – a small step to raise awareness, discussion, and action amongst researchers and clinicians to address a major health priority.

Some vital stats

The statistics related to physical inactivity are not new to us, but still shocking. Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for non-communicable disease (NCDs) – including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, respiratory disease, dementia, and poor mental health. This places it as the fourth leading cause of global mortality, contributing to over five million preventable deaths each year2.

However, physical inactivity is also one of the key modifiable risk factors for NCDs, and the health benefits of regular physical activityare evident across the lifespan (click here for current PA recommendations). Maintaining regular physical activity levels helps to (1) promote growth and development in children and young adults, (2) prevent weight gain in mid-life, and (3) maintain independence and quality of life in older adults and in those living with chronic disease3.

Yet, despite high-quality evidence to implement effective strategies, global efforts to reduce physical inactivity have not been sufficient. It is estimated that one in three adults and more than 80% of adolescents do not meet current physical activity recommendations4.

The call to action

Increasing physical activity at a population level requires a whole-of-community approach. We need to effectively implement our knowledge through policy and practice changes in healthcare delivery, education, environment, infrastructure and media. We need to support individuals and communities to be physically active every day in ways that are enjoyable, accessible, and safe in this highly urbanised and digitalised world of ours. We need to advocate for the development, financing and implementation of evidence-informed national plans so that all countries can achieve the World Health Organisation global target to reduce physical inactivity in children and adults by 10% by 20255.These key messages have been distilled into a seven-point plan developed by the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH) in 2012, ‘Best Investments for Physical Activity – What Works’6 and the infographic is published here7.

The Physical Activity and Population Health’ BJSM Blog series supplements the brand new BJSM Editorial articles Bright Spots, Physical Activity Investments that Work Jointly8 that feature exciting and novel physical activity programmes from around the globe. Expect both series to keep you updated on research, policy, education, and practice developments in increasing population levels of physical activity.

We invite you to share and support the Physical Activity and Population Health BJSM Blog Series. Join the conversation on ‘how change happens’ at #PAblogBJSM and #brightspotsBJSM.

If you have ideas for this series please contact: emmanuel.stamatakis@sydney.edu.au

Sonia Cheng graduated from The University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Applied Sciences (Physiotherapy) (Honours Class I) in 2014. Sonia is currently employed as a physiotherapist with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Westmead Hospital in Sydney. 

References

  1. The True Story of ‘Hidden Figures’ and the Women Who Crunched the Numbers for Nasa
  2. Lee IM, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, Puska P, Blair SN, Katzmarzyk PT; Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet. 2012;380(9838):219-29. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)61031-9/abstract.
  3. World Health Organisation. Interventions on Diet and Physical Activity What Works? Summary Report Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2009.
  4. Hallal PC, Andersen LB, Bull FC, Guthold R, Haskell W, Ekelund U. Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. The Lancet 2012;380(9838):247-57.
  5. World Health Organization. Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2013. http://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd-action-plan/en/
  6. Investments that Work for Physical Activity. Br J Sports Med. 2012;46:709-712. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/46/10/709.full.
  7. Best Investments for Physical Activity – What Works
  8. Stamatakis E, Murray A Launch of new series: Bright Spots, Physical Activity Investments that Work Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 29 June 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098096

 

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