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Forty percent of Japanese adults face higher risk of disease from lack of exercise: WHO

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

About 40 percent of Japanese adults were physically inactive in 2016, above the global average of 28 percent, exposing them to risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia, a World Health Organization report showed Wednesday.

The WHO report found more than 1.4 billion people age 18 and older — or a quarter of people in the 168 countries and regions surveyed — did not get enough physical activity to stay in shape due to such factors as long working hours, developed public transport and prevalence of smartphones.

The ratio of such people in Japan compared with 67 percent in Kuwait, the highest in the world, 42 percent in Germany, 41 percent in Italy and 40 percent in the United States. The prevalence for low physical activity levels was more than double in high-income countries than in low-income countries.

China and Russia had relatively low ratios of physically inactive adults at 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Uganda and Mozambique had the world’s lowest prevalence at 6 percent.

The WHO study also found lower activity in women than in men, with the ratio of physically inactive adults registering 32 percent and 23 percent, respectively, in each gender.

“Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for noncommunicable diseases, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life,” said the study of world exercise levels published Wednesday by The Lancet Global Health Journal.

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

As recommended levels of exercises, the WHO calls on individuals to do “at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or any equivalent combination of the two.”

Moderate-intensity activity includes walking and swimming, while vigorous intensity covers pursuits such as jogging and playing soccer. But in 55 nations, more than a third of adults did not meet this requirement.

The WHO urged governments to implement policies to address the issue, such as improved provision of cycling and walking infrastructure and creating more opportunities for physical activity in public open spaces and parks, in workplaces and in other local community settings.