WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION Department of Health Promotion THE WHO GLOBAL INITIATIVE ON ACTIVE LIVING1. Active Living for All: A World wide ChallengeWHO recognises the great potential of physical activity for health, functional capacity and well-being ofindividuals and communities. Realisation of this unique potential requires the development of policiesand programmes that meet the needs and opportunities of different populations and societies in aculturally relevant way. The aim is to integrate physical activity into everyday life and promote it in society forall age groups, including women and certain population groups, e. g. older people, workers, and persons withdisabilities in all life settings especially at school, in the workplace, and in the community within supportiveenvironments. The fulfilment of this task is possible by using the knowledge, experience, initiative andresources of a wide range of partners from the public and private sectors at the local, national, regional,and international levels.2. Inactive Lifestyles: a Spreading Worldwide Threat to HealthIncreasing sedentary lifestyle combined with the growing use of technology in daily life is causinghigher levels of physical inactivity among persons of all ages, both in developed and developingcountries. Sedentary lifestyle leads to a widening physical activity gap, an imbalance between the needand realization of physical activity that is necessary for the attainment and maintenance of good healthand functional capacity. This gap can be avoided by providing knowledge, services, opportunities andenvironments favouring choice of physically active lifestyles. The prerequisites for health-enhancingphysical activity should be made available to all citizens as a part of efforts to achieve Health for All.3. Active Living: a sound Investment for Population Health WorldwideRecent scientific evidence confirms that regular Physical Activity, in its broadest sense, provides peopleof all ages, male and female, with substantial physical, social and mental health gains and general well-being. Physical activity offers “the best buy in public health”. It provides a low cost, easily accessibleapproach to better health, disease prevention and health gain for all people. Much of the health gain byphysical activity can be produced by activities that are moderate in amount and intensity, simple toperform, and carry minimal risks to health. 4. Health and Social benefits of Active Living throughout the LifespanAppropriate regular physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general and to a largeextent protects against the development of the major noncommunicable, chronic diseases in particularcoronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus andosteoporosis. It may also reduce the prevalence of obesity, provide a beneficial adjunct for alcoholism,substance abuse and other forms of addictive behaviour and contribute to the reduction of stress, anxiety,depression and loneliness. Physical inactivity, is shown to be an independent risk factor for lifestyle-related diseases that is of the same order of strength as smoking and unhealthy diet. This is highlightedin the 1997 World Health Report.5. The Benefits of an Active Society extend far beyond the Health SectorAdoption of physically active lifestyle in communities can bring economic benefits in terms of reducedhealth care costs, increased productivity, healthier physical and social environments, better performingschools and worksites, stronger participation in sports and recreations and greater sportsachievements.6. The Need for Immediate ActionOn the basis of these considerations, WHO has launched in 1997 the "Global Initiative on ActiveLiving” and called on various international partners, such as UNESCO, the International Olympic Committee,concerned non-governmental organisations, collaborating centres and interested countries to cooperate andparticipate actively in its implementation. It is based on strong partnership and joint ownership of allpartners involved in using their capacity to promote Active Living. For that purpose, they have formedthe International Consultative Group on Active Living, coordinated by WHO. /…2
The main Objectives of the Initiative are to :• strengthen world-wide advocacy on physical activity for health;• provide support to the development of national policies, strategies and programmes;• provide support to promoting community programmes and capacity building;• develop local, national, regional and international support networks, involving public and private institutions;• foster the dissemination of current knowledge related to active living and supporting the development of new knowledge.The components of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion offer a valuable frame for the implementation ofthe Initiative. In addition, Physical Activity for Health was investigated at the 4th International Conference onHealth Promotion (Jakarta, Indonesia, 21-25 July 1997) as one of the ten priority health promotion areas of theconference and as one of the most important future challenges.7. Priority Activities in 1998-1999• Production and dissemination of advocacy materials and guidelines on Active Living, especially on Benefits of Active Living, Active Ageing, Physical Activity in and through Schools, Active Living and Healthy Cities/Communities, Assessment of Physical Activity, Policy and Program Development.• Organization with partners of Networks of institutions and individuals, involved in Active Living worldwide, at all levels;• CDC Workshop on “International Standardization of Physical Activity Assessment for Public Health Purposes”, (hosted at WHO/Geneva, 15-17 April 1998).• Technical Meeting on “Promoting Physical Activity in and through Schools (hosted by Denmark, 25-27 May 1998).• Meeting of the Active Living Policy Network, (hosted by Canada,Ottawa, 14-16 September 1998).• The International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s 7th World Sport for All Congress on “Sport for All and the Global Educational Challenges”, co-sponsored by WHO, UNESCO and the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), Barcelona, Spain, 19-22 November 1998.• Meeting of WHO Partners’ Group on Active Ageing, (hosted by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Sports Medicine and Health Promotion, Hong Kong Chinese University, 30 April – 1 May 1999).• Advocacy on Active Living for Persons with Disability at the International Symposium on Adapted Physical Activity (Barcelona, Spain, 4-7 May 1999).• WHO/CDC Technical Meeting on the Economic Arguments in support of Active Living (Aschville, USA, July 1999).• Launching of follow-up actions in few countries (3-5) especially for: i) developing active living policies/programmes, ii) promotion of physical activity in and through the educational system and iii) for assessment of physical activity levels, trends and determinants (as from late 1999).• Preparatory actions for the possible organisation in 2000 of: An International Consultation on Active Living in the Work sites A Meeting of the International Network on Active Living National Policy8. A Growing International Support to the InitiativeAs part of the numerous international partnerships already built for the Initiative, this latter is presentlysupported, through voluntary contributions, by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Centrefor Diseases Control, Atlanta, USA, the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, University of Tampere,Finland, the Health Education Authority, London, United Kingdom, the Ministry of Culture, Denmark and theFederal Department of Health, Canada.For further information please contact: Mr H. Benaziza, HPR Department of Health Promotion, Social Change and Mental Health Cluster World Health Organization, 20, Avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland Tel: +41 22 791 2583 Fax: +41 22 791 4186 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.who.ch/hprWHO/HSC/HPR/AL/hbGialwhorev2.doc Septembre 1999.