By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
No, this is not about taking initiative on a person. This is about taking initiative upon yourself. Physical inactivity may seem like an easy problem to solve, but it is a struggle to keep oneself moving.
Physical activity is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as any movement of the body that requires energy, which can be almost anything that needs body movement throughout our day—walking, taking public transportation, playing, chores, and recreational activities. It must not be confused with exercise, a form of physical activity that requires repetitive movement that is done to improve one’s overall fitness. Physical inactivity is a global challenge, as the WHO sites that it is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. It poses a high risk for having non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and dementia can also be caused by inactivity. Interestingly, countries with higher Gross National Product (GNP) have higher levels of physical inactivity, and those lower-income countries have a lower incidence. This may be due to the lifestyle, such as sedentary behavior at work and at home, or the environment, as urbanization may bring more inactivity because of an increased access to transportation and lack of recreational facilities. Globally, one in four adults and as high as four out of five adolescents lack physical activity, the WHO states, but more than half of its member nations have established policies to curb the sedentary lifestyle in their areas. In the Philippines, are we moving enough?
Apparently, not so much. Our country is currently facing the same health challenge of physical inactivity, with six out of 10 Filipinos according to WHO who are not active enough, and children having the same prevalence. Clocking in more work hours, choosing sedentary time during leisure hours (television, video games), having less areas for recreation, and modernization (mobile phones, laptops) are some of the reasons physical inactivity is high among Filipinos. Even kids are physically inactive, too, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), such that by the time they enter high school, as high as 86 percent lack physical activity. Playing video games, surfing the internet, watching movies, and choosing to interact with their friends online are the reasons the majority of kids are not active, but according to international agency WeAreSocial, the parents’ sedentary lifestyles may be the main culprit. Because Filipinos are top internet users in the world, more parents are spending time online than being active, and kids follow suit. This sedentary lifestyle may even have contributed to the rise of NCD’s in the country, such as obesity and diabetes that is prevalent across all age groups. Moreover, physical inactivity is also one of the key risk factors for heart and vascular disease according to the Department of Health (DOH) that is the leading cause of mortality in the country.
So what should be done to encourage, promote, and instill the importance of a healthy lifestyle?
The DOH published the Philippine National Guidelines on Physical Activity (PNGPA) in 2010, with the help of experts from the WHO, DOH, UP Diliman College of Human Kinetics, and Strength and Conditioning, Inc. that provides guidelines to increase physical activity. They took into consideration the age, capability, and location, as these tips were modeled from previously published guidelines abroad. These are meant to be taught by teachers, fitness trainers, barangay health workers, and HR personnel in the workplace.
At a local level, different cities offer free seminars and community sports fests, open-to-all outdoor exercising activities, more parks for recreation, and for some, they even set up bike lanes that aim to let all their citizens from all ages to go out and move more.
Both local and international companies in the country offer different lifestyle programs for their employees. Zumba, yoga, or aerobics classes, wellness or stress-management seminars, discounts on tie-ups with fitness centers, trip incentives, and other perks have not only proven to improve one’s overall health, but it also benefits the company as it boosts employees’ productivity and engagement at work.
Aside from the basic physical education classes that local and private schools offer, some of them have also gone beyond the class to encourage kids to move more, such as introducing more sports clubs, special interest organizations, and out-of-class learning trips to make kids interested in going out more often instead of staying in and being glued to their televisions and mobile devices.
Everyone thinks they have time, which is why as much as physical activity may seem easy, most of us delay it or do not do it at all, and this sedentary lifestyle, as we have learned, can have serious health consequences in the future. But the good news is, a sedentary lifestyle is not permanent and modifiable. You can always change and start anytime and anywhere. But remember that while there indeed are initiatives from our government, our community, our workplace, or at schools, it is best to start with yourself. Make the first move now!