Promoting physical activity is key to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

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By Daniel Webster, dWeb.News

Newswise — New evidence supports integrating strategies for increasing physical activity into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals action plan.

This was revealed in a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health on July 13. This is the first systematic study to examine the connections between seven strategies that are effective in promoting physical activity at scale and 17 U.N. development objectives (SDGs).

The study showed strong links between physical activity promotion strategies, eight of the 17 SDGs, including good health and wellbeing (SDG 3); gender equality (SDG 5); innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9); reduced inequalities (10 SDG 10); sustainable communities and cities (SDG 11); climate change (SDG 13); and peace and justice with strong institutions (16 SDG 16).

Deborah Salvo, assistant professor in public health and the study’s lead author, said that physical inactivity is being called a pandemic.

It accounts for 7% of all premature deaths worldwide each year and leads to billions of dollars in health-related spending. Even though we have effective solutions to this major public health problem, they’re not being implemented at scale or everywhere.

Salvo and her coauthors created a new simulation model that allowed them to test different scale-up scenarios for physical activity promotion strategies in cities representing low-, medium-, and high-income countries. The simulation results showed that the expected physical activity gains were greater for low-income countries. Physical activity promotion strategies in high-income countries with high levels of car dependency may be able to reduce air pollution and traffic-related deaths. However, the shift toward active travel, recreation, and mitigation of climate change may require additional policies that disincentivize driving.

Salvo stated that this paper presents comprehensive evidence of the multiple benefits that at scale physical activity promotion can bring individuals, communities, and the planet. It also contributes to the U.N. sustainable growth agenda. She stated that physical activity promoted at scale can reduce traffic deaths, pollution in cities, and other benefits beyond the obvious benefits of chronic disease prevention. It can also help us create more equitable societies and reduce climate change. We present evidence in this paper that shows how physical activity promotion can be used to provide small victories in the sustainable development agenda. It also helps us make important strides towards a healthier and more active world.

The international team used three main methods: a systematic expert consultation and a systematic review the literature. A computer simulation model was also created that included six scenarios for physical activity promotion in each city.

This paper was co-authored by Rodrigo Reis, associate dean for public and Brown School professors.

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This article was authored by Daniel Webster using Artificial Intelligence. To learn more visit
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