Physical inactivity is recognised as the fourth leading cause of mortality worldwide. Regular participation in physical activity has been proven to reduce premature death and the incidence of disease as well as providing positive benefits for mental health, quality of life and wellbeing (WHO, 2010).
Physical activity has a key role to help reduce health and social inequalities. Promoting and increasing physical activity levels will help address objectives within a number of the Public Health Agency’s key areas of work including obesity; mental health; older people; active travel; workplace health; joint Government working – Space and Place; and community development.
Guidelines on Physical Activity – Recommended Levels
UK Physical Activity Guidelines for people of all ages recommends that all adults should:
- be moderately active for 150 minutes per week, preferably daily;
- undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days a week;
- minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary.
Physical activity levels in Northern Ireland
The Health Survey for NI 2012/13 (DHSSPS), recently released, identified that just over half of respondents (53%) met these new guidelines, while 28% reported they did less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week. Physical activity levels vary according to income, gender, age, ethnicity and disability. Generally women are less active than men and people tend to be less active as they get older.
The regional framework, A Fitter Future for All, 2012-2022, for preventing and addressing overweight and obesity in Northern Ireland was launched in March 2012. The framework sets the strategic direction to tackle this important public health challenge over the next ten years with the aim to “empower the population of Northern Ireland to make healthy choices, reduce the risk of overweight and obesity related diseases and improve health and wellbeing, by creating an environment that supports and promotes a physically active lifestyle and a healthy diet”.