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No progress Physical inactivity remains a global pandemic

No progress Physical inactivity remains a global pandemic  News - The University of Sydney

A new three-paper series in The Lancet, co-led by a University of Sydney academic and featuring University of Sydney authors, reveals that since the 2016 Olympics worldwide progress to improve physical activity has stalled with deaths associated with inactivity still at more than five million per year.

The slow progress on inactivity has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns likely associated with overall less physical activity worldwide.

The series is launched ahead of the postponed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

The researchers examined the missed opportunity of the Olympic legacy in physical activity promotion, levels of physical activity in adolescents and for people with disability.

The findings highlight that adolescents and people living with disabilities were among the least likely populations to have the support needed to meet the World Health Organization (WHO)’s physical activity guidelines.

In addition, researchers found no measurable change in participation in sports either immediately before or after previous Olympic Games.

"The irony of the Olympics is that for most people they’re really about sitting on the couch watching sport on TV," says Associate Professor Melody Ding, from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, who co-led the Lancet series with two international colleagues.

"We should consider the Olympics an opportunity to remind the public and our decision makers of the importance of physical activity. This isn’t something we should be thinking about once every four years. It should be a conversation we’re having all the time.”

"Instead of thinking only in terms of elite sports, we should see the Olympics as an opportunity to create a legacy of mass sports participation and promote physical activity at a population level. That’s especially important for those of us who are living sedentary lives in lockdown."

Recent analysis in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health (not part of the Lancet series) also highlight how investing in promoting physical activity at the population level is key to achieving the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals, which include health and well-being, climate action and sustainable cities and communities.

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