Three-quarters of Bruneian adolescents lack physical activity

Azlan Othman

The majority of Bruneian adolescents do not get enough physical activity, with a widening gap between boys and girls from 2001 to 2016, according to the results of a new World Health Organization (WHO) study released late last month.

About 87.1 per cent of Bruneian adolescents aged between 11 and 17 do not get at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day, said the study, which examined the issue among adolescents globally.

Based on survey data encompassing 1.6 million people in 146 countries, the research looked at school-going adolescents around the world for the years 2001 to 2016.

It found that more than three-quarters of Bruneian adolescents did not meet current WHO guidelines of at least an hour of physical activity a day. However, the numbers for Brunei do show an improvement over a 15-year period, particularly among boys.

The prevalence of Bruneian boys who did not get enough physical activity dropped to 81.1 per cent in 2016, down 1.6 percentage points from the 82.7 per cent in 2001. This was in contrast to the findings for Brunei girls, with 93.5 per cent not getting enough physical activity in 2016, which is only a slight improvement from the 93.1 per cent in 2001.

As a whole, 87.1 per cent of Bruneian adolescents got insufficient physical activity in 2016, an improvement compared to the 87.8 per cent in 2001.

The report said that physical activity has many health benefits for young people. In 2018, WHO launched More Active People for a Healthier World, a new global action on physical activity, including a new target of a 15 per cent relative reduction in the global prevalence of insufficient physical activity among adolescents and adults by 2030.

It described current prevalence and trends of insufficient physical activity among school-going adolescents aged 11–17 by country, region, and globally.

Globally, in 2016, 81 per cent of students aged 11–17 were insufficiently physically active (77.6 per cent of boys and 84.7 per cent of girls). Although the prevalence of insufficient physical activity significantly decreased between 2001 and 2016 for boys (from 80.1 per cent in 2001), there was no significant change for girls (from 85.1 per cent in 2001).

There was no clear pattern according to country income group: insufficient activity prevalence in 2016 was 84.9 per cent in low-income countries, 79.3 per cent in lower–middle income countries, 83.9 per cent in upper–middle income countries and 79.4 per cent in high income countries.

The region with the highest prevalence of insufficient activity in 2016 was high income Asia Pacific for both boys (89 per cent, 62.8–92.2) and girls (95.6 per cent, 73.7–97.9).

The regions with the lowest prevalence were high-income western countries for boys (72.1 per cent, 71.1–73.6), and south Asia for girls (77.5 per cent, 72.8–89.3).

In 2016, 27 countries had a prevalence of insufficient activity of 90 per cent or more for girls, whereas this was the case for two countries for boys.

Differences in the prevalence of insufficient physical activity between boys and girls, along with widening gaps over time, were particularly apparent in some high-income countries such as Singapore, the United States (US), and Ireland – all showing an absolute difference in the prevalence between boys and girls of more than 13 percentage points in 2016. Girls were less active than boys in Afghanistan, Samoa, Tonga and Zambia.

While the results show that most adolescents around the world could be putting their current and future health at risk, the report highlighted the differences between boys and girls as of particular concern.

“Although there appear to have been small reductions in insufficient activity among boys, the prevalence of insufficient physical activity in girls has remained unchanged since 2001, leading to widening sex differences,” it said.

“Urgent action is needed now, particularly through targetted interventions to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity.

In his message to mark World Physical Day last April, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said that a large number of Bruneian adolescents do not engage in physical activities, with 87.3 per cent of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 being found to have not achieved the target of moderate physical activity for at least 60 minutes daily.

The minister also said that the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, through the Ministry of Health (MoH), will continue to strengthen measures to promote physical activities among all ages.

“The government will take into account measures outlined in the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030 approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2018,” he said.

“Some of the measures have been identified by the Multisectoral Task Force on Health, particularly under the ‘Supporting active communities in Brunei’ programme.

“The MoH is also reviewing and updating the National Guidelines for Physical Activities, taking into account several other factors such as sitting on a daily basis and screening time among children and adolescents.”

The minister also encouraged members of the public to engage in physical activity for 30 or 150 minutes a week, to lead a healthy life.