WHO recommends at least an hour a day of physical activity, such as walking, playing, riding a bike or taking part in organised sports
Fifteen-year old Kazi Omar is a student of class 8 in an English medium school in the capital's Dhanmondi area. He has no opportunity or space for games in the school, which is housed in a six-storey building.
Omar's home in Farmgate too has no open space for him to play. Omar plays outdoors for only 45 minutes a week with his sports teacher. He spends most of the time playing games on computers or mobile phones.
Omar weighs 90 kilograms. A lack of physical activity has made Kazi Omar suffer from many kinds of health issues.
And Kazi Omar is not alone. He is among 66% of Bangladeshi adolescents who are not sufficiently active in the physical sense, according to a study.
The report, `Global trends in insufficient physical activity among adolescents: a pooled analysis of 298 population-based surveys with 1.6 million participants', notes that 66.1 percent of Bangladeshi adolescents are not sufficiently physically active. Of them, 63.2 percent are boys and 69.6 percent are girls.
On a global scale, 81 percent of school-going adolescents do not meet World Health Organisation (WHO) standards of at least one hour of physical activity per day – and among them 85 percent are girls and 78 percent boys.
WHO recommends at least an hour a day of physical activity, such as walking, playing, riding a bike or taking part in organised sports.
The report, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal on 21 November, is based on data from surveys conducted between 2001 and 2016 of some 1.6 million students between the ages of 11 and 17 across 146 countries.
According to doctors, regular physical activities carry health benefits, from improved heart and respiratory fitness to better cognitive functions, making learning easier.
Without sufficient physical activity, the physical structure of a child does not progress well. The child's body naturally tends toward obesity. In such circumstances, children cannot adapt to any unusual environment and cannot do any work for long. In addition to the issue of physical formation, the development of their minds is also hampered, said Dr. Abdul Aziz, former Director of Dhaka Shishu Hospital.
Studies have also shown that obese children suffer from various problems such as heart and kidney diseases by the time they reach the age of 40, Dr Aziz added.
However, the Lancet report notes that the physical activity rate for Bangladeshi adolescents has improved since 2001. In 2001, the rate of prevalence of insufficient physical activity in adolescents was 71.7 percent, but in 2016 it came down to 66.1 percent.
The rather low prevalence of insufficient activity in boys in Bangladesh might be explained by the strong focus on national sports, such as cricket, which is frequently played unstructured in local communities. On the other hand, girls are required to support activity and domestic chores around the home, the report says.
Though the Bangladesh situation is quite satisfactory, the report notes that physical activity in adolescents should be increased much more since, as in other countries, the obesity rate of Bangladeshi young children has gone up.
Dr Lelin Chowdhury, presidium member of Kendriyo Khelaghar Ashar, told The Business Standard, that nowadays children and adolescents do not get enough physical activity. For much of the time they are busy playing games on computers and mobile phones or watching television. Due to such sedentary activities they are getting obese.
To improve levels of physical activity among children and adolescents, multi-sectoral action is needed to make opportunities available for young people to be active. Dr Chowdhury pointed to urban planning, road safety and other fields, where such opportunities can be created.
As the Lancet report points out, four in five adolescents worldwide do not get enough physical activity. The highest prevalence of insufficient activity has been noted among South Korean girls and Filipino boys. As much as 97 percent of girls in South Korea and 93 percent of boys in the Philippines are physically inactive.