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Yoga can be practised at all ages to stay fit, certifies World Health Organization

The WHO endorsement follows the UN’s move two years ago when June 21 was proclaimed International Day of Yoga.

health Updated: Jun 20, 2017 20:08 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
International Day of Yoga,World Health Organisation,Lifestyle illnesses
New Delhi: Yoga enthusiasts take part in a Yoga training session at Nehru park, a day before the 3rd International Day of Yoga in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)

The World Health Organization (WHO) rolled out its yoga mat and celebrated the Indian mind-body discipline, saying the ancient art can be practised by people of all ages to stay fit and fight lifestyle illnesses.

The WHO endorsement follows the UN’s move two years ago when June 21 was proclaimed International Day of Yoga.

“It can help kids get the 60 minutes of daily activity needed to set up a lifetime of good health. It can help adults reach the 150 minutes of weekly activity needed to stave off non-communicable diseases,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO regional director for Southeast Asia.

“For persons aged 65 and above it can help reduce the risk of depression and maintain cognitive functioning.”

Yoga draws a critical link between healthy lifestyle, physical activity and individual and public health.

Non-communicable diseases kill an estimated 8.5 million people every year in the WHO’s Southeast Asia region that has 11 countries. Almost all these ailments are related to lifestyle. An alarming 70% of boys and 80% of girls in the region report insufficient physical activity.

A sedentary lifestyle weakens the heart, triggers chances of strokes, and causes obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Singh pushed for yoga, a discipline that dates back thousands of years, to reverse the trend.

“The only requirement is a commitment to better health and a willingness to gently stretch, exercise and invigorate one’s body and mind,” she said.

“Schools, for example, can provide a physical and social environment that promotes physical activity. Physical activity, including yoga, can be built into classroom lessons, while extracurricular pursuits can be encouraged and facilitated.”

For the record, the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), a government-recognised private board that runs 2,280 schools across India, decided this month to make yoga compulsory in its curriculum.

The WHO regional head acknowledged how challenging it is in today’s world to find time for exercise, but it is fundamental to staying healthy.

“The 5,000-year-old practice of yoga is considered an effective way to increase strength and flexibility, enhance cardio-fitness, burn calories and relax the mind. It has been known to help cultivate routine and integrate physical activity into daily life,” she said.

Singh suggested physical activity should be part of the programme in workplaces.

“Lunchtime sporting competitions or yoga classes can be organised. Government must play a role. Green public spaces such as parks and sports fields can facilitate recreational and organised sport.”

Besides yoga, the WHO is promoting the safe and effective use of traditional medicine by regulating, researching and, where appropriate, integrating it into national health systems in Southeast Asia.

“By encouraging positive health care experiences, and by embracing the principle of preventive health, we can establish the individual and social habits that catalyze real change,” Singh said.

First Published: Jun 20, 2017 20:08 IST