Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide and is on the rise in many countries. Regular and adequate physical activity, defined as any bodily movement that requires energy, can reduce the risk of many noncommunicable diseases and conditions, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancers and depression. Other benefits associated with physical activity include improved bone and functional health. The energy expended while being physically active is also a fundamental part of energy balance and weight control. In addition to the multiple health benefits of physical activity, societies that are more active can minimize economic burdens due to medical costs and years of lost productivity, as well as generate additional returns on investment, such as reduced use of fossil fuels, cleaner air and less congested, safer roads.
To reduce health risks and economic burdens to individuals and entire populations, the promotion of physical activity has become both a regional and a global priority. Documents such as the Plan of Action for the Prevention of Obesity in Children and Adolescents and the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity have been developed with respect to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to guide populations of all levels in these efforts. The new Global Action Plan on Physical Activity sets the target to reduce physical inactivity by 10% by 2025 and 15% by 2030. PAHO is actively working to create synergies across multiple sectors to achieve goals by promoting active living, especially with regards to the improved design, access and safety of walking and bicycling infrastructure. Promoting physical activity through active living and transportation will produce three concrete outcomes: improve people's health, enhance quality of life and minimize negative environmental impacts.