The role of physical activity in health and wellness

Thursday 11 de September 09:30 am


Dr. Michael Pratt

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Dr. Michael Pratt

Dr. Pratt is the Senior Advisor for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He was previously the Chief of the Physical Activity (PA) and Health Branch and founded the CDC WHO Collaborating Center for PA and Health and the CDC International PA Course. Dr. Pratt is an adjunct professor at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and the Schools of Medicine and Government at los Andes University in Bogotá, Colombia. He completed a Masters degree in exercise physiology and Medical Degree at the University of Washington in Seattle, medical residency training at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, earned a Masters degree in Public Health at the University of Minnesota, and is a graduate of the EIS epidemiology fellowship and preventive medicine residency at CDC.  He is board certified in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health and is a Fellow in the American College of Preventive Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine.  Dr. Pratt is an advisor to WHO, the Pan American Health Organization, Exercise is Medicine initiative, and many ministries of health. Dr. Pratt's research interests include increasing global capacity for chronic disease prevention, multi-sectoral strategies and synergies between chronic disease prevention and sustainable transportation and urban development, and evidence-based public health practice. He has published more than 130 scientific articles with more than 18,000 citations, and has spoken widely on chronic disease prevention, global health, and PA. 

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El rol de la actividad física en la salud y el bienestar

El rol de la actividad física en la salud y el bienestar

El rol de la actividad física en la salud y el bienestar

El rol de la actividad física en la salud y el bienestar


Perseverance in doing physical activity has many preventive benefits regarding chronic diseases and contributes to the wellness of the organism. Therefore, it must constitute an essential part of the public policies oriented to the health sector, because if the population performs 25% more of physical activity, near one million deaths could be prevented per year, stated Doctor Michael Pratt, Senior Advisor for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (CDC).

During his presentation, The Role of Physical Activity in Health and Wellness, which addresses the medical perspective about the preventive benefits of physical activity, Pratt suggested that, although “we know about de general benefits of physical activity for the human beings, we also know that, despite that knowledge, currently there are many patients that do not exercise the way they should”.

To put the foregoing in context, Pratt commented on the fact that overweight and obesity maintain a rising trend and, currently, they are at their historic peaks. Some figures offered by the expert indicate that globally there are 122 countries with overweight issues, which means 31.1% of adults worldwide have some level of overweight and obesity.

Additionally, he emphasized that the outlook of physical inactivity in teenagers is not very encouraging: 80.3% of them globally do not perform physical activity, which leads to a population of youths with some level of overweight and obesity. Additional, only 20% of teenagers worldwide perform physical activity with more intensity than adults, an average considered clinically normal.

To understand the seriousness, but above all the consequences of the current phenomenon of the issue of physical inactivity, Pratt mentioned that between 6 and 10% of deaths worldwide are related to the lack of physical activity, which means that near 5 million people die due to complications derived from the lack of physical activity. In Latin America 670,000 annual deaths are related to this modern phenomenon.

Pratt specified that the lack of physical activity not only affects the quality of life, but also generates high costs for public health systems, for example, in Brazil, between 2 and 12% of the total public expenditure on health is destined to the assistance of patients whose complications originated from the lack of physical activity.

However, not everything is reduced to pessimistic data.

Pratt explained that part of the necessary efforts to revert this situation starts by promoting physical activity from concrete information that people can perceive as tangible facts. For example, informing exactly that the recommendation for adults should be 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week; mentioning that, if practiced, it will be a great ally in preventing illnesses such as diabetes, reducing the possibilities of mortality due to cancer –mainly breast and colon cancer-, besides being an infallible tool against depression.

Recommendations for children between 5 and 17 years old must take into account the fact that children need more exercise than adults. Young people should be told that they need to add muscle strengthening activities to their aerobic exercises.

The speaker considered that public policies intended to promote physical activities must include the participation of health care professionals in the fields of internal medicine, sport medicine and nutrition as well as government officials, legislators and decision makers. This would help provide a comprehensive approach that includes the improvement of urban spaces, since it has been proven that a safe urban environment promotes physical activity. The same is valid for the ecological improvement of the environment.

Pratt mentioned some successful initiatives in Latin America for the promotion of physical activity, such as public health clubs in Santiago de Chile, "Muévete en Bici" (Get on your Bike) initiative in Mexico City and cycle tracks in Bogotá, Colombia.

Pratt wrapped up his presentation stating that “it is important to move the focus of research on sedentarism to the countries that suffer from it, rather than countries that have implemented successful initiatives and can afford to do so, i.e. high income or developed countries. Experts around the world should be encouraged to share information, proposals, results and successful stories in order to create a hard data network and develop strategies for the promotion of physical activity”.

During the Q&A session, Dr. Alejandro Cárdenas from Mexico City, pointed out that in spite of advertising efforts in mass media to encourage physical activity, this message does not always reach citizens, to what Dr. Pratt answered: “We should specially consider the characteristics of the Latin American context to get the message through”.

Dr. Juan Santa María from Ecuador said that public schools in his country include physical education as an assignment and he asked how can you tell the extent to which children are really getting that education. Dr. Pratt explained that, in fact, physical education lessons in primary, middle and high schools should be designed taking into account the amount but especially the quality of information delivered for good physical activity.

Dr. Pratt´s presentation was the first of the SCL opening session and followed the speech of the Scientific Committee President, Dr. Arturo Torres, and the official opening of the 4th Latin American Scientific Series 2014, held in Buenos Aires with the theme Active and Healthy Lifestyle.