Quantum Leap

Yes, we need more fitness challenges. But where are the cycling tracks and parks to exercise?

There are several barriers, even if one is willing to be physically active.

 |  Quantum Leap  |  3-minute read |   26-06-2018
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International Yoga Day and fitness challenge on social media have highlighted the importance of physical activity for good health.

India needs more of this, given the fact that nearly 400 million people are categorised as physically inactive and at risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, as per a 2014 study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

It’s clear that we all need to take up more of walking, running, cycling, exercising, etc. This may sound as if the responsibility to remain fit begins and ends with the individual.

But is it really so?

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscle that requires expenditure of energy. Paid or unpaid domestic work like cleaning and tasks like lifting or carrying weight are all physical activities. All forms of physical activity have health benefits if undertaken regularly and with sufficient intensity for long enough.

modi_inside_062618102924.jpgIt’s clear that we all need to take up more of walking, running, cycling, exercising

However, there are several barriers even if one is willing to be physically active.

If adequate and safe pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is not available, how can people walk or cycle?

How will the elderly stay active and children play in open if cities and towns don’t have parks, green public spaces?

If that’s true, then one can’t blame the individual alone for adopting a sedentary lifestyle unless we create and nurture an environment where he or she can be physically active.

virat-kohli_inside_062618103010.jpgMass campaigns are needed to speed awareness

For active people, we need to create active societies, environments and systems, says the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (2018-2030) released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) this month.

Based on scientific evidence, the plan lists policy measures for making communities, people and nations physically active.

At the societal level, mass campaigns are needed to speed awareness as well as make people appreciate the health benefits of regular physical activity.

It is critical to create active environments through policies and actions that promote walking and cycling.

kiren,-rathore_insid_062618102955.jpgThe responsibility to remain fit must not begin and end with the individual.

This can be done by integrating urban and transport policies to develop connected neighbourhoods and to promote the use of public transport.

Such integration should ensure universal and equitable access by people of all ages and abilities. In the same way, policy actions should be initiated to improve road safety and personal safety of pedestrians cyclists, etc.

Green spaces should be designed to ensure safe and equitable access to all. Workplaces and schools are required to develop policies that promote physical activity.

The health system too needs to pitch in.

park_062618102940.jpgFor active people, we need to create active societies

Basically, the action plan is saying that countries need to implement several “upstream” policy actions, along with “downstream” actions that focus on individuals.

Evidence of what works and what does not work is available from India and elsewhere in the world. All you need is the will to implement. By overly focusing on individual actions, we may be missing the larger picture.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: PM Modi's new exercise and yoga video has lit the internet on fire with memes


Dinesh C Sharma Dinesh C Sharma @dineshcsharma

Journalist, columnist and author based in New Delhi.

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