WHO launches Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (4 June 2018)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a Global Action Plan on Physical Activity and Health 2018-2030.

Background Information:

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle that requires energy expenditure. It can be undertaken in many different ways: walking, cycling, sports and active forms of recreation (such as dance, yoga, tai chi). Physical activity can also be undertaken as part of work (lifting, carrying or other active tasks), and as part of paid or unpaid domestic tasks around the home (cleaning, carrying and care duties).

Regular physical activity is a well-established protective factor for the prevention and treatment of the leading noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), namely

  • heart disease,
  • stroke,
  • diabetes and
  • breast and colon cancer.

It also contributes to the prevention of other important NCD risk factors such as

  • hypertension,
  • overweight and obesity,

and is associated with

  • improved mental health,
  • delay in the onset of dementia and
  • improved quality of life and well-being

Sedentary behaviour is defined as any waking behaviour characterized by an energy
expenditure ≤ 1.5 metabolic equivalents, such as sitting, reclining or lying down.

High levels of continuous sedentary behaviour (such as sitting for long periods of time) are associated with abnormal glucose metabolism and cardiometabolic morbidity, as well as overall mortality.

Globally, 23% of adults and 81% of adolescents (aged 11–17 years) are insufficiently physically active (they do not meet the WHO global recommendations on physical activity for health).

The greatest changes are occurring in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where, for example, large numbers of people are switching from walking and cycling to personal motorized transport

Globally, physical inactivity is estimated to cost INT$ 54 billion in direct health care, in 2013, of which 57% is incurred by the public sector and an additional INT$ 14 billion is attributable to lost productivity.

Estimates from both high-income, as well as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) indicate that between 1–3% of national health care expenditures are attributable to physical inactivity. 

Proportional Universality: Proportional universality describes an approach to the resourcing and delivery of services at a scale and intensity proportionate to the degree of need. At a global, national and sub-national level, there is a need to focus efforts on reducing inequity in the opportunities for physical activity. Therefore, proportional allocation of the resources to the actions needed to engage the least active and those who face the greatest barriers to increasing participation should be a priority.

Key Messages:


More active people for a healthier world


To ensure that all people have access to safe and enabling environments and to diverse
opportunities to be physically active in their daily lives, as a means of improving individual and community health and contributing to the social, cultural and economic development of all nations.


The target for the action plan is a 15% relative reduction by 2030 (using a baseline of 2016) in the global prevalence of physical inactivity in adults and in adolescents.


The Action Plan has 4 Strategic Objectives; and 20 Policy Actions

Strategic Objectives

  1. Create Active Societies:
    Create a paradigm shift in all of society by enhancing knowledge and understanding of, and appreciation for, the multiple benefits of regular physical
    activity, according to ability and at all ages.
  2. Create Active Environments:
    Create and maintain environments that promote and safeguard the rights of all people, of all ages, to have equitable access to safe places and spaces, in their cities
    and communities, in which to engage in regular physical activity, according to ability.
  3. Create Active People:
    Create and promote access to opportunities and programmes, across multiple settings, to help people of all ages and abilities to engage in regular physical
    activity as individuals, families and communities.
  4. Create Active Systems:
    Create and strengthen leadership, governance, multi-sectoral partnerships, workforce capabilities, advocacy and information systems across sectors to achieve excellence in resource mobilization and implementation of coordinated international, national and sub-national action to increase physical activity and
    reduce sedentary behaviour.


WHO global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030


All countries should implement “upstream” policy actions aimed at improving the social,
cultural, economic and environmental factors that support physical activity combined with “downstream”, individually focused (educational and informational) approaches that should be implemented consistent with the principle of proportional universality.

This systems-based approach should enable countries to identify a strategic combination of recommended policy solutions tailored to context for implementation
over the short- (2–3 years), medium- (3–6 years) and longer-term (7–12 years).

Monitoring and Evaluation:

The progress towards achieving the target of 15% relative reduction in the prevalence
of insufficient physical activity in adults and adolescents by 2030 will be monitored using
the two outcome indicators adopted by the World Health Assembly in the monitoring
framework for the prevention and control of NCDs, namely:

  1. prevalence of insufficient physical activity among persons aged 18 years and over;
  2. prevalence of insufficient physical activity among adolescents (aged 11–17 years).

Useful Links:

Link to the WHO news release:


Link to the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity:


Note: Specific details are provided in Annexure 2 of the Full Action Plan


1 thought on “WHO launches Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (4 June 2018)

  1. Pingback: New global estimates on physical activity levels among adults published (5 September 2018) | communitymedicine4asses

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