Physical activity - which includes all everyday movement, not just exercise - lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some forms of cancer and dementia, and improves mental health and weight control.
The report looked at nearly 2 million people in more than 160 countries from 2001 to 2016 and found that more than one in four adults were insufficiently active. The highest were 67 percent in Kuwait, 53 percent in American Samoa, 53 percent in Saudi Arabia and 52 percent in Iraq.
They recommend that all countries immediately prioritise and scale up their efforts to improve physical activity levels and increase opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to be active every day.
If current trends continue, the global target of reducing sedentary lifestyle by 10% by 2025 will not be met, said the scientists.
It examined data from 358 surveys across 168 countries, including 1·9 million participants.
Wealthier countries have transitioned towards sedentary occupations, more recreation and motorized transport, and this could explain the higher levels of inactivity compared with lower-income countries where both work and transportation often require physical activity, the authors wrote.
Women were less active than men, with an over 8% difference at the global level (32% men vs 23%, women). Physical inactivity was defined as "not doing at least 150 min of moderate-intensity, or 75 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or any equivalent combination of the two".
Find out more about the Ministry of Health's Physical Activity Guidelines which help New Zealanders understand the importance of physical activity. This is largely influenced by China, the authors stated, with leisure-time activity rising in the most populated country in the region, possibly through increased physical activity and use of public parks among its growing elderly population.
To encourage more people to exercise, World Health Organization launched a Let's Be Active campaign with a goal of reducing physical inactivity 10 percent by 2025 and 15 percent by 2030.
4 out of 10 Irish women aren't getting enough exercise. Bull said in the statement.
India has the highest number of inactive adults in the South-Asia group which also included Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan.
Overall, Australian women are less physically active than Australian men - which reflects worldwide trends. "What is needed are progressive, large-scale, multilevel interventions, especially targeting women, that create safe and culturally acceptable opportunities for physical activity and empower women to participate in physical activity", she writes.