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From ExerciseNZ RE NZ’s Attendance At Important WHO Meeting

Richard Beddie, CEO of ExerciseNZ, was invited to represent New Zealand at a pivotal World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland, on the 6th and 7th of December. Beddie was one of seven individuals to attend its 7th Dialogue on Sport and Physical Activity. 

The meeting, focused on the global challenge of increasing physical activity, brought together global leaders to address the pressing issue of insufficient physical activity levels worldwide. Beddie's inclusion underscores his significant role not only at ExerciseNZ, but also as a member of the World Active Council and a board member of IHRSA (International Health, Racket, and Sports club Association). 

His extensive expertise in the field positions him as a valuable representative for New Zealand at the international level. The meeting explored ways to address the alarming statistics that reveal approximately 27% of adults and 80% of adolescents globally fail to meet WHO guidelines for physical activity.

 In New Zealand, the situation is even worse, with almost half of adults and 93% of children falling short of recommended levels. Beddie expressed his commitment to addressing this global health challenge, stating, "It's a critical time to collaborate on effective strategies to increase physical activity worldwide. New Zealand faces unique challenges, and I'm honoured to contribute to the discussion at the global level, bringing insights from our nation."

The WHO meeting focused on developing strategies where global and national bodies can learn from each other, while also tailoring activities and interventions to the local market. Beddie emphasised the importance of learning from global experiences, acknowledging that New Zealand faces some of the worst statistics globally in this regard.

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Highlighting the urgency of the situation, Beddie remarked, "It's not just about individual health; it's about the collective well-being of our nation. ExerciseNZ is eager to collaborate with the government to address this issue and potentially save the health system half a billion dollars annually associated with inactivity-related costs."

Since 2019 (the last time WHO hosted such a meeting), mental health has been added to the clinically accepted benefits of exercise by WHO, which is supported by a recent meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal, where exercise was shown to be 150% more effective than the next most effective intervention (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and pharmaceuticals were found to be the least effective. This has implications for New Zealand interventions, as Beddie states: “This sharply contrasts with how we spend money on mental health in New Zealand – 90+% goes to drugs, which are shown to be not only ineffective in many cases, but actually harmful. They have their place, but the health system relies on them too much, and this research proves it.”

ExerciseNZ, under the leadership of Richard Beddie, continues to be a leading voice in advocating for increased physical activity and preventive health measures. His representation at the WHO meeting in Geneva signifies a crucial step towards addressing the global health crisis of physical inactivity, with potential positive impacts on New Zealand's health landscape.

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