Research by the WHO identified worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016.

Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life. The research from the World Health Organization (WHO) describes levels of insufficient physical activity across countries, and estimate global and regional trends.

Researchers looked at self-reported data on activity from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries, including 1.9 million people, for their study in The Lancet Public Health.

They found that globally more than a quarter of adults were insufficiently physically active in 2016. Between 2001 and 2016, levels of insufficient physical activity have decreased only marginally and insignificantly, with a global prevalence of 28.5% in 2001. This lack of exercise puts one in four people at risk!

The prevalence of insufficient physical activity in high-income countries was more than double the prevalence in low-income countries in 2016. The prevalence increased over time in high-income countries, from 31.6% in 2001, to 36.8% in 2016, whereas it was stable in low-income countries, at 16.0% in 2001, and 16.2% in 2016.

Across all regions, with the exception of east and southeast Asia, women were less active than men. There was a difference between sexes of more than 10 percentage points in central Asia, Middle East and north Africa. The highest levels of insufficient activity (> 40%) among women in 2016 were in Latin America and the Caribbean, south Asia, and high-income Western countries. The lowest levels of physical activity in men (< 20%) in 2016 were in Oceania, east and southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

If current trends continue, the 2025 global physical activity target (a 10% relative reduction in insufficient physical activity) will not be met. Policies to increase population levels of physical activity need to be prioritised and scaled up urgently.

EuropeActive contributes to the global physical activity target byproviding the unique voice for the fitness, physical activity, and wellbeing sector at the EU level in Brussels, with the aim to get More people, More Active, More Often. Our ambition is to reach 80 million members of health and fitness centres by 2025.