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Use the new WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity to “influence the influencers”

By Rachel Payne, ISCA

The new World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour are now ours to share and use to convince a variety of stakeholders to support our work. They’re also ours because we (the grassroots sport and physical activity sector) helped to create them.

Over 5000 people registered to join the launch webinar, where Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the WHO Physical Activity Unit, reminded the viewers that the guidelines – the first revised recommendations published in 10 years – were developed not only by the WHO’s Physical Activity Unit and a large number of researchers, but also “by those who work in the field and practice using the evidence to promote physical activity [who responded to public calls for feedback on the drafts]. All that collective work underpins and informs these guidelines.”

ISCA contributed to the guidelines by gathering feedback from our members and partners, and ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby was one of five panellists invited as guest speakers in the online launch.

We now have an even bigger role to play in amplifying the messages presented in the guidelines and ensuring that they create more opportunities for people to be active in communities around the world, Dr Bull said.

“We need to use these guidelines to influence the influencers […] through organisations like ISCA and others to reach the communities to provide the sports for all so that everyone can benefit from those.”

Only 78 countries translated the previous WHO guidelines into their own languages, so Dr Bull challenged more countries to come on board to update or translate the new guidelines, so that “we have every country recognising and having a policy position that physical activity is part of health, the environment and a sustainable future for everyone.”

What are the key messages of the new WHO Guidelines?

The new WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour seem almost designed for the reality of 2020. The main message, rather than prescribing a numerical benchmark for our daily or weekly physical activity levels, offers a gentler nudge towards a more active lifestyle: Every Move Counts.

The figures of 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75-100 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week are still the recommendations, but the emphasis is now on balancing sedentary time with physical activity and appreciating that any movement is better than none.

Whether this is a coincidence or a quiet nod to the enforced sedentary behaviour many of us have had to accept with home-bound lockdowns and working or schooling from home, the key messages certainly reflect a contemporary viewpoint:

  1. “Physical activity protects and improves health. It’s good for our hearts, our bodies and our minds. Any level of physical activity is good for our health and being more active is better. We’ve captured all of that in a single message: Every Move Counts.”
  2. “Physical activity is good for all ages and at different key life stages, and for all people including those living with chronic conditions and disabilities.”
  3. “A new element of the guidelines recognises that too much sedentary behaviour can be detrimental to health.”

(Source: Dr Fiona Bull, WHO webinar on 26 November)

The guidelines also highlight the many different “moves” that count towards our physical activity: so forget the thought that only sport or athletic movements equal exercise – active transport and chores around the home can be just as effective.

How do I access the new resources?

You can now access the full guidelines document and a range of social media resources to promote the ‘Every Move Counts’ message. Choose the format that works best for you and your organisation:

Main document with the facts, figures and recommendations

WHO Guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour

Social media resources for sharing

The WHO Every Move Counts video

Short video clips and visuals available here

Scientific papers to support your approaches

Special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine

International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity

Journal of Physical Activity and Health


Podcast for more insights from the WHO

A BJSM podcast with Fiona Bull and Juana Willumsen

By Rachel Payne, ISCA

Photo: WHO Every Move Counts campaign

Related stories:

Study shows more physical activity needed to offset sedentary behaviour

Physical activity for health, the economy or the joy of life? Comment by ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby

Posted on 03/12/2020 by Rachel Payne, ISCA


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