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The Global Observatory for Physical Activity Releases 1st Physical Activity Almanac


The First Physical Activity Almanac, a collection of 133 country profiles documenting the global burden of physical inactivity on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among low, middle, and high income countries was released in November 2016 by the Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA!). The publication of the Almanac, of which I was fortunate enough to contribute to its development and release, coincided with the sixth International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health held in Bangkok, Thailand November 15-20, 2016.

Dr. Gregory Heath

Over recent decades, physical inactivity has reached pandemic proportions in high, middle, and low-income countries (1,2). It is estimated that 5.3 million people worldwide die every year due to physical inactivity. Physical inactivity is responsible for six percent of coronary heart disease deaths, seven percent of type 2 diabetes deaths, and 10% of all breast and colon cancer deaths. Physical inactivity also increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, metabolic syndrome, depression and falls, whereas increased physical activity leads to improved bone health, body composition, functional health, cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness and cognitive function (1).

In the Lancet Physical Activity Series launched in 2012, using data from 122 countries, it was estimated that only 31.1% of the world’s adult population is physically inactive with physical inactivity reportedly being higher among women compared with men, and increasing in prevalence with increasing age2. This ignited a call for global action and led to the creation of the Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA!) (3,4,5).

GoPA! consists of a global team of physical activity scientists and public health practitioners who have analyzed and assembled global data on the topic of physical activity and health with a mission of reporting worldwide physical activity surveillance, research, and policies dedicated to helping to reduce the global burden of NCDs caused by physical inactivity. GoPA! is a council of the International Society of Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH).

Data from the Observatory is intended to help countries determine their physical activity and public health needs and to initiate or improve standardized data collection, surveillance systems, policy development, research, health burden statistics, program development, and systematic evaluation of physical activity interventions. The data assembled by GoPA! can be used by government agencies, researchers, physical activity and health advocates, and interested citizens to improve population levels of physical activity.

To help understand the barriers and potential facilitators for increasing the prevalence of health-related physical activity, GoPA! has assembled a number of these indicators for each country into what is known as a “Country Card.” The collection of Country Cards is what constitutes the 1st Physical Activity Almanac. Each Country Card lists key information including: sociodemographic; economic; physical activity prevalence and inactivity health burden and related mortality; details about a national physical activity plan and physical activity surveillance; and physical activity research. The primary application the Almanac is to help translate glob- al physical activity information into meaningful public health action and policy directed towards the prevention and control of key NCDs.

To read the full GoPA! 1st Physical Activity Almanac.

-Gregory W. Heath, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Research Director, UT COMC


1. Lee I-M, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, Puska P, Blair SN, Katzmarzyk PT, for the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet 2012;380: 219-229.
2. Hallal PC, Andersen LB, Bull FC, Guthold R, Haskell W, Ekelund U, for the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. Lancet 2012; 247-257.
3. Bauman AE, Reis RS, Sallis JF, Wells J, Loos RJF, Martin BW, for the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. Correlates of physical activity: why are some people physically active and others not? Lancet 2012; 258-271.
4. Hallal PC, Bauman AE, Heath GW, Kohl HW 3rd, Lee IM, Pratt M.Physical activity: more of the same is not enough. Lancet 2012; 380: 190-191.
5. Heath GW, Parra DC, Sarmiento OL, Andersen LB, Owen N, Goenka S, Montes F, Brownson RC. Evidence-based intervention in physical activity: lessons from around the world. Lancet 2012; 380:272-81.