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Philip Afeti Korto: Regular Physical Exercise Prevents many diseases

There is much wisdom and value in the trite assertion that prevention is better than cure.

It simply means that it is easier to prevent the occurrence of something than repairing any damage caused by its occurrence.

Physical activity and for that matter regular physical exercise keep the body healthy and prevent the occurrence of many diseases. Nelson Mandela believed that “…exercise is not only a key to physical health but also to peace of mind…” Regarding the duty required of individuals to prevent the occurrence of diseases, Bridgette L. Collins also asserted, “We are the custodians of our bodies.

We must take action to employ healthy lifestyle habits to prevent, reduce, and/or manage disease and illness.”


Exercise is a structured programme of activity geared towards achieving or maintaining physical fitness. An exercise is an integral part of physical activity such as walking, running, wheeling, sports, swimming, cycling and dancing. According to WHO, physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.

Philip Afeti Korto: Regular Physical Exercise Prevents many diseases

Global Efforts

Globally, sedentary lifestyles or declined levels of physical activity have negative cascading impacts on quality of life of the individual. According to the WHO, 28% of adults aged 18 and above were not active enough in 2016. This means they do not meet the global recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. 

It, therefore, behooves countries, communities and organizations across the globe to make frantic and conscious efforts to provide adequate opportunities for people to be active all the time. Increasing physical activity is thus a shared responsibility for different sectors and disciplines to implement policies and solutions appropriate to a country’s cultural and social environment to promote and encourage physical activity.

For example, under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC), various on-the-job training workshops are organized throughout India and many people from other parts of the world participate in those trainings.

As a matter of institutional policy, the authorities of the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Hyderabad insist that ITEC participants eat breakfast only after instructed yoga sessions. This initiative is a deliberate effort directed at increasing physical activity among the participants. Suggestively, other organizations may emulate this practice in different forms.  

Policy Drive

 Workplace physical activity policies must be designed to intentionally ensure that almost nobody is left out except. To me, such organizational policies will create an active working culture. Such policies may ensure short activity breaktime, stretching during working hours, flextime for physical activity and walking meetings.

Policies may be used to create a worksite culture where being physically active is the norm. Policies are most effective when they are supplemented with information, programs, benefit design, and environmental strategies.

WHO response

In 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a Global Action Plan on Physical Activity to last from 2018 to 2030. The plan outlines four policy action areas and 20 specific policy recommendations for Member States, international partners and the WHO itself to increase physical activity worldwide. 

In accordance with this strategy and in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Health Assembly (WHA) agreed on a global target in 2018 to reduce physical inactivity by 15% by 2030.

To this end, various sporting activities, dancing competitions and even brisk walking among others must be encouraged to forestall sedentary lifestyles that have the tendency to facilitate the occurrence of certain chronic diseases.

It is one thing for member states of the WHO to document the physical activity measures on paper and quite another thing communicating the measures to the populace and implementing the action areas to increase physical activity.   

Perhaps to ensure that the planned actions do not only remain as documentary contents, the WHO launched toolkit ACTIVE in 2019 to provide more specific technical guidance implementation of the 20 policy recommendations outlined in the 2018-2030 global action plan.

It has been advised and frequently reiterated that countries must adapt and tailor the global action plan and ACTIVE proposed policy options to local contexts to help increase levels of physical activity globally. Notable among them are the development and implementation of national guidelines for physical activity for all age groups and implementing community wide communication campaigns to raise awareness and knowledge of the multiple health, economic and social benefits of being physically active. Is Ghana Government doing this consciously?


Per the guidelines, individuals are encouraged to adhere to the following routine practices.

  • Avoid being sedentary.
  • Do at least two hours of moderate intensity and one hour of high-intensity workout per week.
  • Do strength training to prevent muscle loss and strengthen your bones.
  • Play outdoor sports, swim, dance, walk, or run.
  • If you have a desk job, get up and walk around every hour. Or get a standing work desk.
  • Treat physical exercise as an enjoyable activity and not a punishment.

Indeed, the short-and long-term health benefits of physical activity are numerous.


It is trite knowledge that people who engage in regular physical activity have social, physical, and mental wellbeing benefits. It has also been proven through scientific research that regular physical activity contributes significantly to the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several cancers. It also helps prevent hypertension, maintain healthy body weight, and can improve mental health, quality of life and well-being.

According to the WHO, adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits. Said differently, sedentary lifestyle is harmful to health.


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