Promoting sports, physical activity and healthy diets in Turkmenistan in preparation for the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games

WHO/Serdar Seyidov

The conference “Asian Games 2017: Sports, Nutrition and Physical Activity – Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle” took place on 6 April 2017 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Representatives from the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, WHO and other international and national participants discussed the role of sports and high profile sporting events such as the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in promoting healthy diets, physical activity and gender equality. They also focused on the benefits of sports for health.

While well designed individual nutritional strategies can improve physical performance and recovery from exercise, the contribution of sports to the overall health of the population is important. Engagement in sports increases levels of physical activity and can highlight the need for improvements in the quality of diets. The health benefits include decreased risks of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

Evidence shows that socioeconomic determinants and gender norms and values impact the level of physical activity in the population through education systems, exposure to health promotion activities and accessibility of health services. The level of physical activity among girls is lower than among boys across all countries of WHO European Region, and it remains lower for women throughout their lives. Involving girls and women in sports is crucial as it increases their level of physical activity, enhances women’s empowerment and gender equality in health, and improves maternal and child health outcomes.

“We hope that this conference will facilitate further development and strengthening of our country’s sport potential as well as the introduction of physical activity culture into everyday life of the entire population of Turkmenistan,” said Azat Ovezov, Head of the Centre of Public Health and Nutrition of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan.

A strategy for the future

The WHO European food and nutrition action plan (2015–2020) and the Physical activity strategy for the WHO European Region (2016–2025) recommend a set of priority objectives and action areas to promote healthy diets and physical activity in the population. Participants at the conference also discussed the proposed national strategy on physical activity in Turkmenistan, which is expected to be adopted soon.

The national action plan for gender equality in Turkmenistan together with the recently approved WHO European strategy for women’s health and well-being, governmental commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the forthcoming national strategy on physical activity provide the policy background to ensure that girls and women in Turkmenistan are physically active.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan and WHO/Europe jointly organized the conference in the context of the work of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of NCDs.