Keeping fit as 12 000 runners race for health and well-being in the 2017 Almaty Marathon

WHO/Victor Magdeyev

The benefits of regular physical activity are well known. Walking, cycling and running have significant advantages for health, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers, while also helping to control weight and contributing to mental well-being. No less important, physical activity has proven to promote social interaction and community engagement, increasing opportunities for meeting others and feeling part of a community.

On 23 April 2017, the City of Almaty – a new member of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network – took to the streets, with over 12 000 runners participating in the city’s sixth annual marathon. This initiative is well aligned with Kazakhstan’s ‘Densaulyk’ state programme, which prioritizes an enabling environment for the preservation and promotion of health. The marathon also resonates with the vision of a primary health care approach detailed in the Declaration of Alma-Ata, signed in Almaty in 1978, which calls for proactive approaches to health promotion and disease prevention through local action and community engagement.

At the 2017 Almaty Marathon, the commitment to health and well-being – the very essence of primary health care – as well as the local enthusiasm for physical activity, was contagious among walkers and runners. For the first time at their new local premises, a team of staff from the WHO European Centre for Primary Health joined the race. The team was formed in collaboration with staff and students of the Kazakhstan School of Public Health (KSPH) showing a collective commitment to Almaty’s growing health-conscious community. This team also included colleagues from local United Nations (UN) agencies, as well as family members and friends. The Centre, together with the KSPH and local UN agencies, aim to make this event an annual tradition.