On April 6th, World Physical Activity Day (World Health Organisation) and the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (UNESCO) recognised the continued importance of sport and physical activity as key elements towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Physical activity and sport provide not only physical but also social and psychological benefits to participants notwithstanding age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion and social class.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) moderate to intense aerobic activity such as brisk walking can result in several benefits:
· Improvement in brain health
· Weight management
· Reducing disease
· Strengthening of bones and muscles
· Improvement in ability to do everyday activities
According to a 2018 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report, the spending by Latin American and Caribbean government on sport amounts to .1% of GDP excluding elite athletes funding. Therefore, Sport for Development suffers immensely.
The report stated that while the region is produces some of the finest elite athletes, the general population physical inactivity level is very worrying especially when the population is disaggregated by various demographic factors such as age, ethnicity, gender, social class etc. For instance, between the ages 11 and 17, 9 out of 10 adolescents did not meet the universal standard of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day.
Locally, physical inactivity among the adolescent population should not be taken likely by parents/guardians, schools and the state. Physical inactivity is compounded by poor eating habits- heavy consumption of sugar based and fast foods- and sedentary lifestyles. If allowed to develop unchecked, the already existing problems of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and obesity among the older population can become an alarming concern among the younger population. The costs to society will not only be in terms of health but also economically with regards to forgone productive expenditure.
The current health protocol measures brought about to curb the transmission of the COVID-19 virus can have a further dampening effect on physical activity especially among adolescents and young adults. At the moment there is ban on recreational team sports and with no face-to-face classes schooling, students do not have the opportunity to participate in organised physical education and school sport.
However, all is not lost as participation in activities such as walking, running, cycling and swimming still offer great opportunities for achieving the multi-faceted benefits of physical activity. For instance, persons can make walking and running competitive by registering for any of several virtual events and or engage in non-competitive family fun activities such as kite flying. At the end of the day the onus falls upon parents/guardians, sport clubs and social groups to engage creatively in physical activity despite the current pandemic. Failure to do so may result in mounting undesirable physical, social and mental issues.