Benefits of physical activity for the health according to WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a total state of wellbeing, physical, mental and social, and not only consists of the absence of disease or diseases. Physical activity is an essential part of achieving general well-being. Similarly, WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles, with the consequent consumption of energy. This includes any daily activity such as work, play and travel, housework and recreational activities.

Physical activity has important health benefits and helps prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs). According to WHO statistics, physical inactivity is one of the main risk factors for mortality worldwide and is increasing in many countries, due to the fact that it establishes one of the main risk factors for NCD, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. People who do not do enough physical exercise have a mortality risk between 20% and 30% higher than those who are sufficiently active.

Regular physical activity of moderate intensity (such as walking, cycling, or playing sports) has considerable health benefits. Below are the benefits of physical activity at appropriate levels:

  • Improves muscle and cardiorespiratory status.
  • Improves bone and functional health.
  • Reduces the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, different types of cancer (such as breast and colon cancer) and depression.
  • Reduces the risk of falls and vertebral or hip fractures.
  • It is essential for energy balance and weight control.

Currently, approximately 80% of WHO Member States have developed policies and plans to reduce physical inactivity. National and local authorities are also adopting policies in various sectors to promote and facilitate physical activity.

Source: World Health Organization (2017). Definition of Health.

World Health Organization (2018). Physical activity