3 in 4 Indian adolescents not active enough: Study
Three in four adolescents and teens in India are not getting the one hour of daily exercise prescribed for optimal health, but they are still far more active than 11-17 year olds in the rest of the world, according to a new study.
Globally, 81% of those surveyed were insufficiently physically active in 2016, with boys more active than girls. Around 77.6% boys were inactive, compared to 84.7% girls.
In India, 73.9% children got “insufficient physical activity” in 2016, increasing their chances of being obese and developing heart disease, diabetes and mental health problems, including depression, according to a World Health Organisation analysis of 1.6 million students across 146 countries.
Inactivity was the lowest in Bangladesh (66.1%), followed by Ireland (71.8%) and the United States (72%), and the highest in South Korea (94.2%), the Philippines (93.4%), and Cambodia (91.6%), according to the study published in The Lancet.
Activity levels among the surveyed group has increased in India since 2010, when 76.6% of 11-17 year olds were inactive, but they still need more exercise and outdoor play.
Successive studies in India have shown students in government schools have lower obesity levels than those going to private schools. “An ongoing study being done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on sleep apnea, a sleep disorder associated with obesity, screened school students in Delhi for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure, and found obesity rates much higher in private schools, where children come from more affluent families. An analysis of data show they have higher screen time (on smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, laptops and television), lower physical activity and more access to junk food than children from the lower socio-economic strata,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
“With rising air pollution, urbanisation and increasing access to mobile phones keeping students indoors, inactivity will increase in the coming decades, and with it, non communicable diseases (NCDs),” said Dr Guleria.
NCDs, which include heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, account for 60% of all deaths in India, killing more people than infectious diseases.
“It’s imperative to provide children a supportive environment for recreation, at home, in the neighbourhood, in school, and even while going to school. We need green parks and urban forests within a 0.5km radius, adequate playgrounds in schools and pavements as wide as the road to encourage play and walking, which will decrease pollution levels as a co-benefit,” said Shifalika Goenka, head, department of social and behavioural sciences, Indian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India and commissioner, Lancet Obesity Commission.
The study found no clear pattern according to country income group. In low income countries, 84.9% of those surveyed got insufficient physical activity; this proportion was 79.3% in lower-middle-income countries, 83.9% in upper-middle-income countries, and 79.4% in high-income countries.
WHO launched a new global action on physical activity called ‘More Active People for a Healthier World’ with the goal of 15% relative reduction in insufficient physical activity across ages by 2030.
“All schools must have a dedicated time for all-inclusive sports, play and dance for everyone. The Central Board of Secondary Education already has a policy, but it needs more support,” said Goenka.
Walking and cycling, sport, physical education, or unstructured activity during leisure hours needs to be encouraged across ages, experts said.
“Physical inactivity is a great leveller, it affects all countries. In India, people need to be more active than other populations because of our terrible metabolism. If physical activity is increased from schools, a substantial decrease in diabetes and heart disease could be achieved. It has to be done aggressively and time to begin is now,” said Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis C-DOC hospital for diabetes and allied sciences, New Delhi.