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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 151-153

Physical activity: An effective way to enhance population well-being

1 Mohammadpur Upazila Health Complex, Khulna, Bangladesh
2 Department of Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre, Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3 Centre for Data Analytics and Society, Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
4 Unit of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine and Defence Health, Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (National Defence University of Malaysia), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Date of Submission06-Jun-2022
Date of Acceptance04-Aug-2022
Date of Web Publication23-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Mainul Haque
Unit of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine and Defence Health, Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (National Defence University of Malaysia), Kem Sungai, Besi, Kuala Lumpur
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aihb.aihb_107_22

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How to cite this article:
Salam MW, Yousuf R, Salam MM, Haque M. Physical activity: An effective way to enhance population well-being. Adv Hum Biol 2023;13:151-3

How to cite this URL:
Salam MW, Yousuf R, Salam MM, Haque M. Physical activity: An effective way to enhance population well-being. Adv Hum Biol [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Mar 27];13:151-3. Available from: https://www.aihbonline.com/text.asp?2023/13/1/151/356792

Physical activity is a significant element in enhancing the population's well-being.[1] Well-being is a condition of feeling good and functioning well, which helps people develop and thrive and control or manage life's negative, painful emotions.[2],[3] Feeling good experiences are the positive emotions that give happiness and life satisfaction.[1] Physical activity improves human health, including mental health and stress tolerance, and thereby experiences pleasant activated feelings of joy and enhances overall well-being.[1] These people exhibit greater productivity, are more socially active, and are economically productive.[2]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined physical activity as 'any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure'. It includes all movement accomplished during leisure time, work or transport.[4] Worldwide, physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour for prolonged periods cause several adverse effects on health.[5],[6] Sedentary behaviour is well-defined by the Sedentary Behaviour Research Network as 'any waking behaviour such as sitting or leaning with an energy expenditure of 1.5 metabolic equivalent task (MET) or less'.[7] The report shows that long sedentary times are spent by people around the world, such as Americans spend 7.7 h/day equivalents to 55% of their waking time, Europeans spend 2.7 h a day which is 40% of their leisure time watching television, and Koreans spend 8.3 h of sedentary time.[6] The WHO reports globally, more than a quarter of the world's adult population (1.4 billion adults) are not performing enough physical activity. This is doubled in high-income countries compared to low-income countries.[4] In low-income countries, more physical activity is attributed to the workplace and transport.[8] The prevalence of physical inactivity in South-east Asia is 17%, while in the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean is about 43%.[9] In Malaysia, one in four adults is physically inactive;[10] 20% of adults are physically inactive in Africa.[11]

Rapid urbanisation and economic growth and technological advancement and social changes are related to declining physical activity globally and the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).[12],[13] The cultural values also influence physical activity in some places where women, older people and the underprivileged and disabled population do not get enough opportunities to access safe and affordable. Appropriate programs are required to remain people physically fit.[12] Additionally, lack of time, motivation, energy, fear of injury, sedentary work pattern, affordable facilities are common factors that inhibit people from being physically mobile.[14]

Physical inactivity causes around 8% of NCDs and deaths.[15] It is reported as the 4th leading risk factor for death.[16] About 5.3 million people die yearly from physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyles.[16] It is reported by Lee et al. that physical inactivity results in 6%−10% of the significant NCD such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, breast and colon cancer and 9% of premature mortality.[17] Worldwide, 7.2% of deaths due to other causes and 7.6% of deaths due to cardiovascular disease are attributable to physical inactivity.[15] Physical inactivity also contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, mental health problems and significant NCDs of colon and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It ultimately leads to early death.[18] Moreover, health-related morbidity affects the population's quality of life and well-being.[16]

In addition to this health-related burden, physical inactivity also imposes an enormous financial burden.[16] The attributes causing this financial burden are direct healthcare costs, lost productivity and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs). Data from 142 countries (93·2% of the world's population) showed physical inactivity costs internationally US$ 54 billion/year in direct healthcare in 2013, of which $31·2 billion was paid by the public sector, $12·9 billion by the private sector, and $9·7 billion by households. While lost productivity due to physical inactivity costs INT$ 14 billion related to deaths and lifetime disease burden due to physical inactivity costs 13·4 million DALYs worldwide.[12],[19] High-income countries bear a more significant financial burden due to healthcare costs (80·8%) and indirect costs (60·4%). In comparison, low-income and middle-income countries bear a large proportion of the disease burden caused by physical inactivity (75·0% of DALYs).[19]

Regular physical activity, such as walking, cycling, wheeling or any sports activity, is beneficial. It prevents and treats NCDs such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breast and colon cancer.[4],[12] Patients benefit from physical activity to prevent obesity and hypertension and improve mental health, quality of life and well-being.[12] The numerous benefits of health and disease eventually reduce the mortality rate.[5]

It is found that physical activity promotes weight loss and prevents weight regaining in overweight and obese people.[20] Performing exercise without any significant weight reduction is also beneficial.[5] Strength exercise is a powerful stimulus to improve and maintain bone mass during aging. Regular practice of multi-component exercise, including aerobic, high impact, and/or weight-bearing training for muscle-strengthening, bone-strengthening and whole-body vibration, can be combined with exercise help to increase or prevent the loss of bone density, especially in post-menopausal women.[21],[22] Regular physical activity in older adults improves their functional fitness,[23] helps to improve physical functioning and psychological well-being[24] and reverses some chronic diseases, and provides personal ability to live independently.[25]

Physical activity by doing regular exercise reduces the cardiovascular risk factor by the reduction in body weight, reduction in the low-density lipoprotein level, total cholesterol, and increase in the high-density lipoprotein level as well as increases in insulin sensitivity and control blood glucose levels. It also improves the vascular wall function and oxygenation to the muscles.[26] Thus, the physical activity effectively prevents and treats high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, osteoporosis, cerebral diseases, and complications. Physically active people showed higher satisfaction with life.[27] Reports indicated that physically active cancer survivors had fewer adverse effects and mortality from their cancer than inactive participants.[28] In addition to the health benefits, the active population can participate in productivity and economic development. The indirect benefits are less fossil fuel use, less congested and safer roads and reduced air pollution.[12]

According to WHO, adults aged 18-64 years should have at least 150–300 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week or at least 75–150 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or a combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week.[4] In addition, muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups should be practiced 2 or more days a week.[4] Moderate activity is similar to walking briskly at 3–4 miles/h. Any activities from occupational or recreational activities such as cycling, household work, yard work, swimming and dancing are considered moderate activities. Approximately five to seven 30-min sessions/week of moderate activity are equal to an intensity of 3–6 METs or about 600–1200 calories expended per week.[26] Vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity includes running, aerobic dancing, heavy yard work, hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack, cycling 10 miles per hour or faster, jumping rope, etc.[29]

Awareness of the population is necessary to increase physical activity. Implementing a global action plan and a national plan to increase physical activity can motivate people. Providing facilities and workplace physical activity opportunities would increase physical activity levels. WHO has launched a global action plan to promote physical activity with four objectives and 20 policy actions aimed at reducing physical inactivity in adults and adolescents by 15% by 2030. It recommends more active societies by doing more walking, cycling, sport, active recreation, dance and play.[12] During transport, the use of non-motorised mode by use of cycle, or by walking and more active participation in sports, or passing active time during leisure time is encouraged. Therefore, providing cycling and walking infrastructure, improving road safety and providing the facility for physical activity for the community are necessary.[8]

Physical activity has a significant impact on human health and well-being. Moreover, an active population is significantly involved in productivity and economic development. Therefore, it is necessary to increase awareness and motivate people and implement strategies to enhance and maintain the physical activity and well-being of the people.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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