The study recommended level of physical activity is 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.
More than 1.4 billion adults globally are not meeting physical activity targets, according to the World Health Organsation (WHO).
The recommended level of physical activity is 150 minutes of moderate exercice.
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Four in ten women spend too much time sitting at work or at home compared to just under one in three men, it is claimed.
The results were revealed in a study by the World Health Organisation, which estimates global physical activity trends over time.
It found more than 1.4bn adults globally – a fifth of the population – are not getting enough exercise, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancer.
The lack of exercise is more than twice as high in well off countries like the UK and has risen by five per cent in 15 years.
Dr Regina Guthold, based at WHO’s Geneva headquarters, said: “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.”
Her team said there has been little progress in improving physical activity levels between 2001 and 2016.
The recommended level of physical activity to stay healthy is at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, every week.
The study published in The Lancet Global Health included 1.9 million participants across 168 countries.
They self reported activity levels at work and at home – as well as during transport and leisure – in 358 population based surveys.
It found 16 per cent of those in low-income countries were insufficiently active, compared to 37 percent in high-income ones.
A transition towards more sedentary occupations, recreation and motorised transport as countries prosper and use of technology increases could explain the trend.
The most inactive countries were
Kuwait (67 per cent), American Samoa (53 per cent), Saudi Arabia (53 per cent) and Iraq (52 per cent). The least inactive were Uganda and Mozambique, both with six per cent.
Governments must provide infrastructure that promotes increased walking and cycling for transport and active sports and leisure, said the researchers.
Dr Guthold said: “Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).”
An action plan titled “More active people for a healthier world” was launched in June. It recommends improving the spaces and places for physical activity as well as increasing opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to do more walking, cycling, sport, active recreation, dance and play.
Co author Dr Fiona Bull said: “Addressing the 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.”