The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the lack of regular physical activity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers, hypertension and diabetes.
A new study, published in The Lancet Global Health journal on Wednesday, highlighted the benefits of being physically active.
According to the study, physical activity has positive effects on mental health, can delay the onset of dementia, and help people maintain a healthy weight, the WHO study found.
The study’s lead author, Regina Guthold, of WHO Switzerland, warned that more adults are lagging behind the recommended levels of physical activity required for a healthy life.
“Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health,” Guthold said.
The study detailed the levels of insufficient physical activity in different countries and estimates global and regional trends.
The findings reveal that there has been no improvement in global levels of physical activity since 2001 and that one in three women and one in four men globally are not active enough to stay healthy.
Moreover, levels of insufficient physical activity are more than twice as great in high-income countries as compared to that of low-income nations, with a five percent increase in higher income countries between 2001 and 2016.
There has been little progress in improving physical activity levels during that 15-year period, with data projecting that if these trends continue, the 2025 global activity target of a 10 percent relative reduction in insufficient physical activity would not be met.
Other main findings showed that by the end of 2016, in 55 of 168 countries, more than one-third of the population was insufficiently physically active.
More than half of all adults in Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq were insufficiently active, while inadequate levels elsewhere of 40 percent appeared in the US, 36 percent in the United Kingdom and 14 percent in China.
Only six percent of adults in Uganda and Mozambique were insufficiently active – the lowest levels of all countries.
The greatest levels of insufficient activity comparing women and men appeared in South Asia (43 versus 24 percent), Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa (40 versus 26 percent), and high-income Western countries (42 versus 31 percent).
Around one in three women and one in four men worldwide did not reach the recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
“Addressing these inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women will be critical to achieving global activity targets and will require interventions to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable,” said the study co-author Fiona Bull.
The study is based on self-reported activity levels from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries, consisting of around 1.9 million people.