WHO: PH youths 2nd most ‘inactive,’ next to S. Koreans

By: Jovic Yee - Philippine Daily Inquirer November 24,2019 - 08:11 AM

The frequent use of mobile phones, the lack of public spaces as well as poor urban and transport planning have contributed to the Philippines being ranked second in the world with the most physically inactive adolescents, according to a research by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Of the 1.6 million teens in 146 countries surveyed, the Philippines had an overall “physical inactivity prevalence” of 93.4 percent. South Korea topped the list with an overall rate of 94.2 percent.

Compared to males of their age group in other countries, Filipino boys were the most inactive globally, at 92.8 percent. Filipino girls ranked second, at 94.1 percent.

Future health risk

In the first global study on physical inactivity among teens published on Thursday, it was found that four out of five (or 81 percent) of teens aged 11 to 17 in 2016 were “insufficiently physically active.”

According to the study, these teens did not meet the WHO’s recommended minimum 60 minutes of physical activity of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, which includes walking, biking or attending physical education classes.

“Our data show that majority of adolescents do not meet physical activity guidelines, putting their current and future health at risk,” said the researchers in their study published in Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

Not just mobile phone use

According to Dr. Regina Guthold, the study’s lead author, while mobile phone use is a factor that explains why teens spend less time playing outdoors, there are other reasons behind their high physical inactivity rate.

“It’s not the individuals (who) are to be blamed. It’s more often society, the environment that makes them— forces them almost—to be inactive,” Guthold said.

She noted that in some countries, there is a dearth of public spaces, especially in big cities, where teens can be active. There are not enough sidewalks where teens can safely walk or bike in going to school, she added.

Safety concerns

There is also the safety and security aspect, since boys may feel safer and more confident jogging in the city at night compared to girls.

“[There’s a need for] strong political leadership to raise awareness that this is an issue—to know their impact on health. We need to improve the education sector—to integrate physical activity [in classes], the transport sector, (and) urban planning to create spaces safe for physical activity. If we do that, it contributes to other goals like reducing pollution,” Guthold said.

Other studies show that the more teens engage in physical activities, the more likely they’d “learn better (and) have better cognitive development” and to carry the habit onto adulthood, Guthold said. This is on top of the benefits they could have such as better heart and bone health, respiratory fitness, and better social behavior, she added.

“Young people have the right to play and should be provided with the opportunities to realize their right to physical and mental health and well-being,” the researchers said.

Causes of diseases

Earlier, the United Nations Interagency Task Force (UNIATF) on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases pointed to physical inactivity as one of the four main causes of such ailments as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

It noted that in 2015, around 43 percent of Filipino adults were insufficiently physically active, making them more prone to coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer.

The UNIATF noted that in major urban areas, residents become physically inactive due to the lack of green spaces, parks, sidewalks, sporting facilities or cycle paths.

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