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Need to Build Environment Promoting Physical Activity in Indian Cities, Says Study

According to the study, built environment has profound influence on the population's physical activity levels, preventing myriad chronic diseases and enhancing health throughout lifespans.


Updated:November 18, 2019, 7:43 PM IST
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Need to Build Environment Promoting Physical Activity in Indian Cities, Says Study
A man is seen on a skywalk on a smoggy day in New Delhi on Saturday. (Reuters)

With the country's population facing rising prevalence of diabetes and other chronic diseases coupled with air-pollution and climate change, a new study has recommended a framework convention to be implemented by cities to create an environment that promotes physical activity.

According to the study, published in the 'Obesity Reviews' by researchers at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Centre for Chronic Disease Control, built environment has profound influence on the population's physical activity levels, preventing myriad chronic diseases and pathology from becoming a disability, and enhancing health throughout lifespans.

It also profoundly influences the air pollution levels, ambient and surface temperatures, carbon and other toxic emissions and consumption of non-renewable energy to decelerate global warming. The latter are the major reasons for climate change, the study said.

The research, titled 'Built Environment for Physical Activity: An Urban Barometer, Surveillance, and Monitoring' highlights the need for urban and civic facilities focusing on pedestrian priority and dignity, wide pavements with tree canopies, water fountains with potable water, benches for the elderly at regular intervals, access to urban forests or large lush green spaces within 0.5-km radii and large tree shaded playgrounds in schools.

Facilities for physical activity at work sites, prioritisation of staircases and ramps in building construction, redistribution of land use, and access to quality, comfortable and well-networked public transport sensitive to the elderly and differently-abled are some of the interventions that require urgent implementation and monitoring.

"As Indian cities grapple for solutions towards the health emergency caused by air pollution, sustainable solutions towards its prevention are required," said Dr Shifalika Goenka, professor at Public Health Foundation of India, Gurugram and author of the research paper.

Detailing the study, Goenka said The Lancet Commission on Obesity (LCO) in January, 2019 had already stated that drastic and bold changes are required to harness the common drivers of obesity, climate change and under-nutrition.

"The research provides solutions to curb the rise of this syndemic. An urban barometer consisting of valid relevant indicators aligned to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), UN-Habitat-3 and healthy cities should be considered a basic human right and ought to be mounted for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring," Goenka said.

A 'framework convention on physical activity and built environment in daily living' needs to be urgently taken up at the global level for meaningful results towards obesity prevention, climate change mitigation, SDGs, disabled and age inclusiveness, dignity, and prevention of non-communicable diseases at the ground level, she said.

The monitoring and accountability indicators can be adapted by each country. Pragmatic and sustainable interventions are needed to counter rapidly growing inactivity by providing environments that change the way we live in our daily lives, the study said.

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