Noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors

WHO launches ACTIVE: a toolkit for countries to increase physical activity and reduce noncommunicable diseases

ACTIVE technical package aims to support countries to achieve the global target of reducing physical inactivity by 10% by 2025 and by 15% by 2030

17 October 2018 | London - The World Health Organization (WHO) today launched ACTIVE, policy toolkit to help all governments reduce the alarming levels of physical inactivity and the related health, social and economic consequences.

ACTIVE is based on the recently launched WHO Global Action Plan for Physical Activity 2018-2030 and provides countries with specific policy and interventions to help increase participation levels in physical activity.

“We must get the world moving,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Increasing physical activity is not an issue that can be solved solely by the education sector, or the transport sector: actions are needed by all sectors. Our job is to create a world that will help our children to be active and make cities easier for people to walk and cycle.”

Physical inactivity: a global public health problem

One in four adults (1.4 billion people worldwide) do not meet the WHO recommendations on physical activity to benefit from the reduced risk of common chronic diseases and to improve their health and wellbeing, according to the latest WHO data published in Lancet Global Health (1). Globally, women are less active (32%) compared with men (23%) and inactivity declines in older age in most countries.

ACTIVE: what it contains

ACTIVE sets? out four policy action areas, each comprising a set of specific policy actions for governments at all levels - national, sub national and city or local level to implement to help get more people being active every day. These four action areas and the primary policy focus are:

  • Active societies – Implement behaviour-change communication campaigns and build workforce capacity to change social norms
  • Active environments – promote safe, well maintained infrastructure, facilities and public open spaces that provide equitable access to places for walking, cycling and other physical activity
  • Active people - ensure access to opportunities, programmes and services across multiple settings to engage people of all ages and abilities in regular physical activity
  • Active systems - strengthen leadership, governance, multisectoral partnerships, workforce, research, advocacy and information systems to support effective coordinated policy implementation

Collaboration and community involvement is key to implementing ACTIVE and increasing physical activity

Everyone has a role to play to help increase levels of participation. Partnerships and coordination will be key across relevant key settings – such as education, transport, urban planning, sport, and health.

“ACTIVE presents a new ‘whole of system’ approach to this public health problem to overcome the multiple barriers to being active. It shows governments how to make use of the many solutions and opportunities that can be tailored to local communities needs and contexts in all countries.” says Dr Fiona Bull, program manager for surveillance and population-based prevention, WHO Department for the prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). “Bold leadership is needed from governments to initiate and facilitate collaboration across ministries and partnerships with non-state actors at all levels.”

Being active improves more than health

Beyond improving health, being active can help the environment as more walking and cycling can reduce the use of automobiles and fossil fuels, as well as contribute to economic development through employment opportunities. It can also help create stronger, cohesive communities where people meet and interact more often, which is particularly important for mental health and reducing loneliness.

Last month, heads of state and government committed at the United Nations General Assembly to work to increase levels of physical activity in their countries as part of a broader push to protect people from NCDs and promote mental well-being. “Political leadership and commitment is essential to promote physical activity and other measures to prevent avoidable deaths from NCDs,” says Dr Svetlana Akselrod, WHO Assistant Director-General for NCDs and mental health.

Physical activity can be undertaken in many different ways: walking, cycling, sports and active forms of recreation. Physical activity can also be undertaken at work and around the home. All forms of physical activity can provide health benefits if undertaken regularly and at sufficient duration and intensity.

The WHO Global recommendations on physical activity for health state that:

  • Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Children should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
  • Older adults, with poor mobility, should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls three or more days per week.
  • People of all ages should do strengthening activities involving major muscle groups on two or more days a week.

Editors notes

About the World Health Organization: WHO directs and coordinates international health within the United Nations system. Working with its 194 Member States, WHO’s mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. For more information about WHO, visit www.who.int. Follow WHO on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information, contact:

Dr Fiona Bull
Program Manager, Surveillance & Population Based Prevention
Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases
World Health Organization
E-mail: bullf@who.int
Mob: +41 79 477 1725

Paul Garwood
Department of Communications
World Health Organization
E-mail: garwoodp@who.int
Mob: +41 79 603 7294


(1) Guthold R, Stevens GA, Riley LM, Bull FC. Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1· 9 million participants. The Lancet Global Health. 2018 Sep 4.