With these results in mind, investigators concluded that these people were at an increased risk of serious disease: heart and artery disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and different types of cancers.
The highest levels of inadequate physical activity in 2016 were found among women in Latin America, the Caribbean, south Asia and high-income Western countries. Insufficient physical activity rose 5 percent in high-income countries, and increased just 0.2 percent in low-income countries.
The authors arrived at these findings after pooling data from 358 population-based surveys across 168 countries, representing some 1.9 million people.
"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 co-author Fiona Bull from WHO.
If current trends continue, the global target of reducing sedentary lifestyle by 10% by 2025 will not be met, said the scientists.
The study was based on self-reported activity levels both at work and at home and during travel and leisure time. However, in 2016, around one in three women and one in four men worldwide were not reaching the such levels.More news: Tesla stock falls as CEO appears to smoke marijuana on video
Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services suggest adults participate in some type of muscle strengthening activity at least twice a week, along with moderate aerobic exercise for 150 minutes per week or 75 minutes per week if vigorously working out.
The report, published in the journal The Lancet Global Health, is the first and largest study to look at rates of exercise among the global population and comes ahead of a United Nations meeting at the end of September on risk factors for non-communicable diseases. In low-income countries habit of walking more or using different modes of public transport help them in remaining active.
- Country with the highest level of insufficient activity: Kuwait (67 percent).
Women do worse than men, with 40 per cent not taking enough exercise, according to data gathered by the World Health Organisation.
Adjunct Associate Professor Benedict Tan, who is chairman of Exercise Is Medicine Singapore - a movement to make exercise part of healthcare - said that there are various barriers that stop sedentary adults from becoming physically active. The lowest levels were found in men in Oceania, east and southeast Asia, among others.
Guthold said that countries and communities alike can address descending levels of exercise by "creating new opportunities and programs to support and engage people to be more active". "We have seen basically no progress", she added.