World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior for people with disabilities: from process to practice

The World Health Organization (WHO) published the first global public health guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior for people with disabilities in 2020. Evidence-based guidelines were urgently needed considering given the widespread exclusion of persons with disabilities from almost all sectors of public life, including health care, sports and physical activity.

People with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be physically inactive as people without disabilities, increasing physical, mental and social health risks. Lower participation reflects additional barriers encountered, including physical, personal, social and environmental barriers. Evidence suggests that there are no significant risks to engaging in physical activity appropriate to an individual’s current activity level, health status and physical function. The accrued health benefits usually outweigh the risks. Evidence also points to the benefits of limiting sedentary behaviors.

Considerable effort is needed to move this agenda forward, and the guidelines mark a positive step forward in improving disability inclusion. This presentation provides an overview of the guidelines, their development process and their practical application. It highlights key considerations for implementing the new recommendations for people living with disabilities, in line with the human rights agenda that underpins the Global Plan of Action on Physical Activity 2018-2030 : more active people for a healthier world and related policies.

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