Why is Latin America the most sedentary region?

Why is Latin America the most sedentary region?

The fourth part of the inhabitants of the planet, something more than 1.400 million people, does not carry out enough physical activity and, therefore, they are in serious risk of having health problems that can significantly shorten their lives and / or make them have an old age really hard. And the problem is more serious among women, because one in three does not 'move' enough, while in the case of men the proportion is one in four.
The alarm was launched last week by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the report 'The Lancet Global Health', the largest study in this regard, based on information obtained in 168 countries (96% of the world population) And one of the most worrying findings of the study is that Latin America is the region with the lowest levels of physical activity in the world, followed by Asia Pacific.

Brazil, Costa Rica and Argentina, with Colombia in fourth place, are in their order the countries with the worst indices in our region. In Latin America, the proportion by gender that is presented worldwide is also confirmed: 43.7% of Latin American women do not perform the physical activity necessary to be healthy, and the same happens to 34.3% of men.

The obvious question is: what is happening in Latin America so that this problem is so strong?

Well, experts say that the issue is due to a combination of factors. To begin with, the accelerated urbanization of Latin America has fostered several elements that discourage physical activity. Among them, the mechanization of transport and the progressive decrease of sources of work that require physical activity. In a World Bank report last year, reference is made to the concentration of villagers in the cities as something that minimizes the displacements on foot and increases desktop jobs, usually in front of a computer. On the other hand, the overpopulation of cities (especially capitals and intermediates) is accompanied by an increase in travel times on buses and other mass transit systems. that adds long hours of inactivity in the lives of people, because either they travel seated or, in the worst case, standing, but always immobile.

    
        
    One of the most worrying findings of the study is that Latin America is the region with the lowest levels of physical activity in the world, followed by Asia Pacific

    

There is also the disorderly growth of urban areas, which is usually characterized by the absence of parks, sidewalks, sports facilities and recreational settings, which makes it more difficult to exercise naturally or intentionally in the environments in which people live. To this is added a rapid aging of the Latin American population, with a high incidence of chronic diseases that restrict movement in a significant number of people. This is not to mention the crime in the poorest areas of the cities, which leads to that many people prefer to pick themselves up in their homes, rather than walk around their neighborhoods. Then there is the poor air quality, produced by pollution and favored by incomplete combustion of motor vehicles, which not only adds another disincentive to exercise, but also increases the incidence of diseases that affect the respiratory system and "paralyze" to the people. To top it off, the lack of education on the importance of physical activity and a balanced diet for a full and healthy life is remarkable in our countries of emerging middle classes that in many cases access only at first – and at most in the second generation – to higher education levels. That is why it is not surprising that Latin America occupies the place it occupies in this issue.
The panorama in Colombia When reviewing the sedentarism map in our country, between 30 and 39% of Colombian men do not realize an effective level of physical activity; In other words, they perform less than 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity three times a week. This situation worsens in women, to the point that under the same criteria, between 40 and 49% of them fall into the range of sedentary lifestyle. This is the reason why the country is in the ninth place among those who perform less physical activity in the world and one of the most contributing to the growing inactivity in the continent. And in the face of this, 'The Lancet Global Health' insists on the urgency of having national policies that favor non-motorized transportation methods, such as walking or cycling, and in "promoting participation in active recreation and sports in the free time".
Less exercise This analysis was the first to evaluate trends in physical inactivity over time. In fact, it remained stable between 2001 and 2016, which suggests that progress has not been made at global levels to achieve the goal of reducing the immobility of people by 10%, raised by the WHO itself by 2025. However, these trends of inactivity also present a wide variation among regions, income levels and among the countries themselves. For the sample, the greatest decreases in sedentary lifestyle are found in East and Southeast Asia, apparently because the Chinese have increased physical activity outdoors and there is a specific policy aimed at maintaining the vitality of the elderly, who are the population Moreover, the lack of progress in other regions could be explained, according to the study, in the fact that policies to promote physical activity are not ambitious or do not reach the majority of the population and, in many cases cases, are simply enunciadas.Al analyzing the data specifically shows that the list of most sedentary countries are headed by Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, in which more than half of its population does not perform physical activity with effective levels. In 55 countries of the 168 analyzed, more than a third of the population does not have enough physical activity. In contrast, the places where the exercise has a greater impact are Uganda, Mozambique, Lesotho, Tanzania, Niue, Vanuatu and Togo . By quantitatively referencing in how many countries physical activity was lower in men than in women, it was also found that in the great majority -between which Barbados, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Palau, Iraq and Bangladesh stand out- men are more active than men. women.Although all over the planet women tend to move less than men, this is more evident in southern and central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The authors raise explanations as less time available for that they perform physical activity and mastering them in activities that require more physical effort. The previous without leaving aside, according to 'The Lancet', some cultural components, the marked presence of traditional roles, the lack of social and community support for detach women from passive roles at the family level and from their essence as domestic caregivers, which takes a huge amount of time. The above leads us to an equation that is simple the: if more calories enter the body than they leave, people get fat. Until now most studies focused on the axis of what is eaten, but research like 'The Lancet Global Health' show that this view is not correct, because sedentary lifestyle, according to these experts, would respond for more of double the deaths that are attributed to obesity. According to Ulf Ekelund, researcher at the University of Cambridge, being quiet for long periods increases the risk of dying by up to 59%, in a time corresponding to one day of work of eight hours.For this researcher, the evidence is clear and really the only group that is protected from metabolic, cardiac and cerebral diseases, is that of those people who exercise conscientiously, at least half an hour every day, for five Days of the week. "From there to below, that is, less time devoted to regular physical activity, translates into quantifiable risks," he adds.

    
        
    The above leads us to an equation is simple: if more calories enter the body than they leave, people get fat

    

High cost Other studies, equally rigorous as that published by WHO, have calculated the expense generated by sedentary lifestyles in many countries. For Colombia, the direct costs for stillness are around 773 billion pesos and the indirect costs are just over 134 billion pesos. That is, more than half a billion pesos that could be saved by just promoting the 'movement' in the community. The issue is so serious that the costs in life without well-being are equally high, to the point that it has been calculated that by simply removing totally sedentary lifestyle would avoid at least 5 million deaths each year, a figure similar to the deaths caused by smoking. It has also been calculated that exercising at least 150 minutes a week, according to the same Ekelund, could increase a year more than life, calculated from 40 years of age. But it is presumed that if there were rigorous monitoring of those who exercised from childhood and throughout life, "that expectation could increase 3.4 and up to 5 years," said the researcher. For the above, the WHO has planted a global strategy to promote physical activity through state policies, to develop in all age groups, tending to promote sufficient exercise, consisting of practicing 75 minutes per week of rigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or a combination of both "This needs to be prioritized and expanded urgently," says the WHO study. As a conclusion, insufficient physical activity is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases and has a negative effect on mental health and mental health. quality of life. That alone should be enough for us to start moving ourselves and never stop doing it.

CARLOS FRANCISCO FERNÁNDEZ
EL TIEMPO Medical Advisor

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