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70,000 Strong aerobics Session to highlight Health Benefits of physical Activity and gain entry in Guinness Book of Records

Thailand’s Prime Minister will lead attempt on world aerobics record to focus attention on health gains from physical activity

As part of a global movement for health the Thailand Ministry of Public Health is organizing the world’s largest health festival, The Power of Exercise, in Bangkok from 22-25 November, 2002. The event joins a number of similar national efforts to highlight the need for healthy diets and physical activity in preventing chronic disease and mental ill-health.

"Move for Health" was the theme for this year's World Health Day, 7 April, which kicked off a year of national and local health campaigns including this one in Thailand.

Co-organized with the Handicap Association of Thailand and the Runners Association of Thailand, the festival will include an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Aerobics Gymnastic Display, by bringing more than 70,000 people together in a mass aerobics routine on Saturday, 23 November. The existing record was set by 38,633 people in June 1998 in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Event will be led by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“Thailand is wisely bringing physical activity and healthy diet into the spotlight,” said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). “I am delighted with the Power of Exercise initiative and congratulate its organizers. Events like these show people that exercise does not only mean competition sports. It means having fun while using your body. The World Health Organization lends its full support and wishes every success for this event.”

Highlights of the festival will include talks and demonstrations by celebrities and experts on exercise and healthy cuisine. The event will also include the running of the Bangkok Marathon and the Handicap Marathon. The festival reinforces “Empowerment of Health”, one of Prime Minister Thaksin’s key themes since taking office, which aims to make Thai people aware of the benefits of staying healthy through regular physical activity and healthy diet.

Dr Brundtland said that physical activity works wonders for the health of rich and poor, men and women, young and old, helping prevent heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and reducing the risks of cancer, osteoporosis, hypertension and depression.

A healthy diet and physical activity are seen by WHO as major preventive elements in reducing the risk factors for chronic diseases, which are now the major cause of death and disability worldwide, and increasingly affect people from developing as well as industrialized countries. Noncommunicable conditions, including cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), diabetes, obesity, cancer and respiratory diseases, now account for 59% of the 56.5 million deaths annually and almost half (45.9%) of the global burden of disease. About 75% of CVDs can be attributed to the majority risks: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low fruit and vegetable intake, inactive lifestyle and tobacco. An estimated 177 million people are affected by diabetes, the majority by type II diabetes. Two-thirds of them live in the developing world.

The scientific demonstrates that a change in dietary habits, physical activity and tobacco control can produce rapid changes in population risk factors for these chronic diseases. WHO is formulating a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, under a May 2002 mandate from the World Health Assembly (WHA). This extensive, population-wide, prevention-based strategy will be developed over the next two years and presented to the WHA in 2004. WHO will be consulting widely with all member states and stakeholders during this process.

“Move for Health” was chosen as this year’s World Health Day theme to focus increased attention on the need for daily moderate-intensity physical activity to maintain good health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The day highlighted that several countries are developing popular movements to "move for health". This is particularly important in middle-income countries, which have seen a rapid change towards a more sedentary lifestyle and high-calorie diets. Dr Brundtland celebrated the day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the "Agita Brazil" movement has had widespread success in engaging city administrations, trade unions, hospitals and local communities.

The 2002 WHA urged member states to celebrate Move for Health annually and agreement is close on picking a day on which this event will be celebrated globally.

Move for Health was discussed during the 9th International Olympic Committee World Sport for All Congress held in Arnhem, the Netherlands, last month. The 450 participants from 95 countries, representing sports organizations, governments, and the academic community, met under the auspices of the IOC, WHO and the General Association of International Sports Federations. In their Declaration and Call for Action, participants noted that in addition to intra-sport developments, the sports community was facing new social challenges such as public health, equity, tolerance and environmental sustainability.

“Of particular importance currently is the recent WHO initiative in taking physical activity as an integral part of its agenda to combat the increasing global burden of Noncommunicable diseases in both the developed and developing worlds. This initiative represents a new challenge and at the same time a tremendous opportunity for the sports movement as a whole, and Sport for All in particular,” the declaration said.

Dr Brundtland concluded: “By physical activity we do not necessarily mean running a strenuous marathon every day. Rather, for most people, it is about walking the children to school or taking a stroll in the park. It means taking the stairs, instead of the elevator. Or getting off the bus two stops early. It is about dancing to a good tune on the radio. In order to fight the rise in noncommunicable diseases, the World Health Organization urges that more attention be focused on physical activity. Individuals, groups, health professionals, teachers and town planners must give it higher priority. The pay-off will be reduced suffering and diminished costs related to long-term treatment of chronic disease.” In Geneva:

For more information contact:

Mr David Porter
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 3774
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 477 1740

Mr Wee Soo Cheang
Mobile phone: +66 9 696 3030