In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 28 percent of adults aged 18 and above did not meet the minimum recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity every week in 2016; and that one out of three women were not sufficiently active compared to one out of five men.
This prompted WHO to launch in 2018 a Global Action Plan on Physical Activity running from 2018 to 2030, with four policy action areas and 20 specific policy recommendations for member states, international partners and WHO to increase physical activity worldwide.
Countries, cities and communities were to adopt a “whole-of-system” response to provide safe and supportive environments and more opportunities to help people increase their levels of physical activity.
With gyms closed, team sports prohibited, and movement curtailed during the pandemic, every nation reported a significant decrease in physical activity across all age sectors.
The WHO toolkit ACTIVE, launched in 2019, provides specific guidelines on how to start and implement the 20 policy recommendations.
Then the pandemic happened, which obviously made the problem worse. Gyms were closed, team sports prohibited, and generally speaking, movement was curtailed. Every nation reported a significant decrease in physical activity in all age sectors during the pandemic.
WHO revealed in 2018 that one out of eight adults is obese. This number was projected to be one out of five in 2025. However, due to COVID-19 and its consequences (decreased physical activity, increased stress/ anxiety, increased consumption of processed food and sugar), that ratio of obese people projected for 2025 will be reached by 2022.
In the Philippines, 7.5 percent of adult women and 5.2 percent of adult men are obese. However, three out of 10 Filipinos are overweight and obese. If no steps are taken to modify their eating plans and increase their physical activity, then these numbers will continue to creep up.
Countries with lower obesity percentages were those with safe and efficient public transport systems. In places like Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, people walk a lot and commute regularly to their places of work.
The Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of the Department of Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) presented in 2019 showed that about one in every five adolescents in Makati (23.6 percent), Mandaluyong (19.7 percent), Manila (19.2 percent), San Juan (18.4 percent), Caloocan (17.6 percent) and Las Piñas (16.3 percent) were overweight/ obese.
At the national level, 28.8 percent are overweight and 9.6 percent are obese among adults, 20-59 years old, based on BMI.
Popular physical activities like walking, cycling, sports, active recreation and play can help prevent and manage diseases such as heart ailment, stroke, diabetes and several cancers. It also helps prevent hypertension, maintain healthy body weight and can improve mental health, sleep, quality of life and well-being.
Adults aged 18 and above should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. If vigorous, 75 to 150 minutes will do. Muscle-strengthening exercises involving all major muscle groups must be done at least twice per week.
Take the talk test
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the “talk test” is a simple way to measure relative intensity.
If you’re doing moderate-intensity activity, you should be able to talk but not sing while doing the activity. The examples given were brisk walking, cycling slower than 16 kilometers per hour on flat terrain, tennis (doubles), ballroom dancing and general gardening.
When doing an activity in vigorous intensity, you will not be able to utter a few words without pausing for a breath. Such is the case for race walking, jogging, running, swimming laps, tennis (singles), aerobic dancing, cycling at 16 kph or faster on slopes, jumping rope, hiking uphill or with heavy backpack, and heavy gardening.
Another way to determine intensity is by measuring your heart rate. For moderate-intensity physical activity, your target heart rate should be between 64 percent and 76 percent of your maximum heart rate. For vigorous-intensity physical activity, your target heart rate should be between 77 percent and 93 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can estimate your maximum heart rate based on your age by deducting your current age from 220.
The countries with lower obesity percentage are also those with safe and efficient public transport systems. In places like Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, people walk a lot and commute regularly to their places of work. In the United States, on the other hand, most travel by car to reach their destinations.