Saturday, November 25, 2017

WHO links Yoga to preventing lifestyle diseases; says it can be practised at all ages

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-06-20 19:43:09 BdST


Ahead of the International Day of Yoga, the World Health Organisation has encouraged the people to take up the 5000-year-old practice to prevent lifestyle diseases and reduce the risk of depression.

“Yoga can be practised at all ages. It can prevent lifestyle diseases,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said as the day will be observed globally on Wednesday.

She said the only requirement is “a commitment to better health and a willingness to gently stretch, exercise and invigorate one’s body and mind”.

“It (Yoga) can help kids get the 60 minutes of daily activity (which is) needed to set up a lifetime of good health. It can help adults reach the 150 minutes of weekly activity needed to stave off non-communicable diseases,” she said.

“For persons aged 65 and above it can help reduce the risk of depression and maintain cognitive functioning”.

Yoga is considered an effective way to increase strength and flexibility, enhance cardio-fitness, burn calories and relax the mind. It has also been known to help cultivate routine and integrate physical activity into daily life.

In December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved by consensus an Indian proposal to celebrate Jun 21 as the "International Day of Yoga".

The Indian missions abroad observe the day in a massive way through day-long programmes. In Dhaka, the High Commission will observe the day in the morning from 5:30am at the National Bangabandhu Stadium.

Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, State Minister for Sports Dr Biren Sikder and Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla will inaugurate the day where thousands of people of all strata including celebrities are expected to join. Free yoga mats will also be distributed among the participants.

The Day draws a critical link between healthy lifestyles, physical activity and individual and public health.

Non-communicable diseases cause an estimated 8.5 million deaths every year in the WHO’s Southeast Asia Region of which both Bangladesh and India are members.

“Many are premature; nearly all are lifestyle related. An alarming 70 percent of boys and 80 percent of girls in the region report insufficient physical activity,” the executive director said.

“Though each of us should develop our own health-positive habits community initiatives that promote physical activity in all forms are key to creating the society-wide change needed”.

Schools, for example, she said can provide a physical and social environment that promotes physical activity.

“Physical activity – including yoga – can be built into classroom lessons, while extracurricular pursuits can be encouraged and facilitated.

“Workplaces can integrate physical activity into their operations. Lunchtime sporting competitions or yoga classes can be organised,” she said in her message.

“Government must also play a role. Green public spaces such as parks and sports fields can facilitate recreational and organised sport”.

“Beyond the critical importance of physical activity, the International Day of Yoga speaks to another public health imperative: harnessing the full potential of traditional knowledge systems”.

Across the South-East Asia Region, WHO is promoting the safe and effective use of traditional medicine by regulating, researching and, where appropriate, integrating it into national health systems.

“By encouraging positive health care experiences, and by embracing the principle of preventive health, we can establish the individual and social habits that catalyse real change,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said. 

“As the International Day of Yoga demonstrates, the art of being active is one each of us can master. As with other aspects of health and wellbeing, it is one for which millennia-old systems of knowledge and practice can show the way”.

“Though finding time for exercise can be challenging, it is fundamental to lifelong health and wellbeing,” Dr Singh added.