By Dr Zaf Iqbal, Team Doctor at Crystal Palace Football Club

Following on from our introduction to the Asian Sports Foundation last month, we’ve managed to get hold of one of the ASF’s expert panelist and advisors – Dr Zaf Iqbal, Team Doctor at Crystal Palace, former Team Doctor at Liverpool FC, Tottenham Hotspur and England FA youth team to get his opinion on the true importance of physical exercise.. is it all hype or is there anything to it?

Fact: Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.

Fact: Adults who are physically active have a 25% reduced risk of a premature death and up to 50% reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and Type II diabetes.  


So what?

We’re not just throwing a few stats around – the fact is that lack of physical activity is associated with obesity, breathing problems, infertility, psychological problems and even some cancers.  Recent research, reported that adults of South Asian origin were three times more likely to die from heart disease and six times more likely to develop Type II diabetes than the White participants. Physical inactivity and obesity in childhood is strongly linked with that in adulthood as physical activity decreases with age.

In the UK there are significant inequalities in levels of physical activity: compared with the general population in England, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Chinese men and women are less likely to meet physical activity recommendations. Over half of people in black and minority ethnic (BME) communities do no sport or physical activity.

Where BME communities are high achievers in terms of education and attainment, it’s sad to find out that we don’t fare so well when it comes to sports. On average BME populations have a lower sports participation rate than the national average of sports participation – which stands at 46% – Bangladeshi (30%), Pakistani (31%), Indian (39%) and Black Caribbean (39%).

And if you’re a woman it’s even worse! Shockingly 92% of South Asian women do not take part in the recommended levels of activity, compared to 55% of all women. One of the main factors contributing to such low levels of participation is a lack of BME role models who have little involvement with organising sporting activities.


So what can we do about it?

The best way of maintaining a healthier lifestyle and weight is a combination of increasing physical activity and reducing calorie intake.

To keep healthy, adults should do a minimum of 30 minutes per day of at least moderate physical activity on five or more days per week, whereas children need to do at least an hour a day.

What is ‘moderate physical activity’? It’s movement that results in:

•    An increase in breathing rate.

•    An increase in heart rate, where the pulse can be easily felt

•    A feeling of increased warmth, possibly accompanied by sweating on hot or humid days.

You can do all 30 minutes at once or in separate sessions throughout the day, e.g. 3 x 10 minute brisk walks

If you haven’t done any regular physical activity for a while then it is best to start slow and gradually increase duration.  Stop if you are becoming severely short of breath or getting any pains and seek medical advice.  Make the physical activity fun by participating in local community outings, group activities or team sports.  

Before starting any change in physical activity, arrange a review with your GP to make sure you don’t have an underlying medical problem.  

If, after reading these guidelines you have any questions concerning physical activity/exercise related health issues please forward them to and Dr Iqbal will try and answers them for you.


To find out more about the work of the Asian Sports Foundation please visit:

Disclaimer: The information provided by Dr Zafar Iqbal is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to existing treatment.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here