Physical activity, health and well-being – A strategic objective of the National Sport and Recreation Plan (NSRP) of South Africa
In the National Sport and Recreation Plan (NSRP) of the Republic of South Africa, approved by Cabinet in 2012, the first strategic objective stated as follows: “To improve the health and well-being of the nation by providing mass participation opportunities through active recreation”. The aim of this objective is to get the South African population more physically active in order to improve their health and well-being. The purpose of this paper was to highlight the South African situation regarding physical activity, health and well-being as well as the challenge of non-communicable disease. For this purpose, scientific evidence was gathered from peer reviewed journals, books and internet sources. The health and well-being of mankind since ancient times was addressed in many documents and charters. The salutogenic association between physical activity and health was pointed out by health professionals in ancient times and later substantiated by evidence-based research by modern scientists. Notwithstanding the fact that research indicated physical inactivity as a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCD), the hypokinetic lifestyle of people around the globe remains a health concern. According to the World Economic Forum, 63% of all deaths in 2008 could be attributed to NCD, with about 50% of those that had died as a result of NCD, being in the prime of their productive years. It is also proved that the low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected, with 80% of all deaths due to NCD. In South Africa, the condition of hypokinesis is also alarming. Results indicated that in 2006, 74.6% of individuals over all ethnic groups do not participate in physical activity, the most inactive groups being the Coloured (84.8%), followed by the Asian (75.6%), black (75.0%) and white (74.6%) groups. When the age pyramid for the South Africa population is analysed with projections to the year 2050, the large portion of elderly people becomes evident. The fastest growing segment of the population will be the age group 80 + years, which will grow at an estimated rate of 77% and 79% for the male and female groups respectively. This significant number of elderly people may lead to major escalation in health care cost, which may cripple the health care budget. In conclusion therefore it is clear that physical inactivity poses a major health risk to the South African population, and with the projected increase in the older age category, that is more prone to various health risks, this scenario asks for timely intervention at various levels, starting from childhood to the elderly.
Keywords: Physical activity, hypokinesis, non-communicable disease, ageing, health care cost, population pyramid.