Promoting Physical Activity is Vital to Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

According to a new study headed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis’ Brown School, fresh data supports integrating tactics to promote increased physical activity as a critical aspect of the action plan for reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

The study was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health on July 13 under the title “Physical Activity Promotion and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Building Synergies to Maximize Impact.” It’s the first study to look at the links between the seven proven strategies for increasing physical activity at scale and the 17 United Nations development goals (SDGs). 

Physical activity promotion strategies were found to have strong links to eight of the 17 SDGs: good health and well-being (SDG 3); gender equity (SDG 5); industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9); reduced inequalities (SDG 10); sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11); climate action (SDG 13); and peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 13). (SDG 16). 

Physical inactivity has been described as a pandemic, accounting for 7% of all premature deaths worldwide each year and costing billions of dollars in healthcare expenses. Even while we have proven answers to this critical public health issue, they are not being implemented on a large scale or everywhere. 

Deborah Salvo, an assistant professor of public health and the study’s lead author, and her co-authors created a novel simulation model that they used to test multiple scale-up scenarios of various physical activity promotion strategies in city types representing low-, middle-, and high-income country settings. 

Low- and middle-income countries are predicted to acquire more physical activity, according to the modeling results. Physical activity promotion strategies may help to reduce air pollution and traffic-related deaths in high-income countries with high car dependency, but shifts toward more active forms of travel and recreation, as well as climate change mitigation, may necessitate complementary policies that disincentivize driving. 

This study, according to Salvo, “provides comprehensive evidence on the various benefits that at-scale physical activity promotion may offer to individuals, communities, and the planet, with direct contributions to the United Nations sustainable development agenda.” 

“In addition to the anticipated benefits of chronic illness prevention, boosting physical activity at a large scale can reduce traffic mortality and pollution in cities,” she said. “It can also aid in the creation of a more egalitarian society and the reduction of climate change. She said, “Through the evidence, we present in this paper, we show how physical activity promotion can help in providing much-needed small victories for the sustainable development agenda while making important strides toward a healthier, more active world.” 

A systematic expert consultation, a systematic study of the literature, and a computer simulation model with three city types and six physical activity promotion scale-up scenarios per city were used by the multinational team. 

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