India’s diabetes and cardiac disease burden

Young Bites. Dated: 6/9/2018 12:53:01 PM

In the last week of May, social media was abuzz with a fitness challenge that Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted from Virat Kohli, India’s cricket captain. The Opposition was quick to politicise the matter, calling it a pre-2019 general election gimmick. While the jury is still out on that, what cannot be denied is that the fitness challenge is a good response, in part, to India’s increasing obesity problem. A recent report by the New Delhi-based Indian Council of Medical Research, one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world, shows that physical inactivity is common in the country with 54.4% people deemed inactive. According to the data, men are significantly more active than women. But people spend more active minutes at work than in commuting or on recreation. In fact, fewer than 10% engage in recreational physical activity. The results of the survey don’t come as a surprise. First, physical activity is not a part of our everyday (urban) culture. It’s improving, but we have a long way to go. In fact, even if one’s childhood is full of fun and games, things change once a person gets older with far greater emphasis on education and employment. Second, the lack of safe public spaces is a hindrance to fitness activities. How many urban children have proper spaces to play in our cities? The problem was highlighted by Sachin Tendulkar in 2017, when he requested lawmakers to consider amending the Free and Compulsory Education Bill of 2009 by adding the ‘Right to Play’ alongside the ‘Right to Free Education’. In fact, HT’s 2017 Youth Survey also revealed that most young people in India do not exercise regularly or monitor their diet. The third reason is technology. It’s becoming such a predominant aspect of our lives that many seem to have forgotten that being outdoors can be very rewarding and rejuvenating. Then, there’s the fondness for unhealthy food. India already has a huge burden of diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases. Obesity and a stressful lifestyle means more and more people will get these diseases. The demographic dividend that India’s talks about will come to thought unless people get out there and become more active.


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