Marking World Health Day, UN highlights benefits of active lifestyle
Commemorating World Health Day - marked each year on 7 April - United Nations officials are calling attention to the benefits of an active lifestyle in staving off disease and prolonging life.
"A vast body of knowledge, experience and scientific evidence shows that regular physical activity provides people of all ages, male and female, with substantial physical, social and mental health gains and general well being," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his message on the occasion. At the same time, he warned that "healthy living alone is not enough," pointing out that poverty, lack of education, and inadequate health services contribute to disease.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, emphasized that "prevention is the most powerful weapon against disease and disability, and it is a weapon that is available to everyone." She urged governments to begin "implementing transportation policies that make it safer for people to walk and ride bicycles, legislating smoke-free public buildings and spaces, and building accessible parks, playgrounds and community centres."
The President of the General Assembly, Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, pointed to the need for policies that encourage people to be active. "Communities should give high priority to developing parks and open spaces and safe and attractive streets, which are highly conducive to a vibrant public life," he said. "Clean air and water are equally important to a healthy, active community and should be at the top of the public policy agenda."
Some 2 million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity, according to WHO, which warns that sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.
World Health Day, which is observed in local communities across the globe, got an early boost in Pakistan on Thursday when WHO joined forces with the country's Ministry of Health and the UN Information Centre in Islamabad to host a media workshop emphasizing the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
Addressing the 40 participants, the WHO Representative in Pakistan, Dr. Khalif Bile Mohamud, warned that changes in the nation's way of life had considerably increased the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer, and that more deaths would occur in the future unless preventive measures were introduced.