High-income countries had insufficient physical activity two times higher than low-income countries and that rate increased by five percent between 2001 and 2016.
"One way to explain sex differences in activity is to assess male and female participation in different domains of activity (activity at work or in the household, for transport, and during leisure time), and at different intensities (moderate and vigorous)", the authors wrote.
"Most women are diagnosed late, are under treated and have larger complications because they tend to neglect health and drop out from treatment more than men", said Chennai-based diabetologist Dr Anjana Mohan, who was a part of the study. The highest rates of insufficient activity in 2016 were found in adults in Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, where more than half of all adults were insufficiently active.
Out of 168 countries ranked in the report on their levels of physical activity, Australia came in at a pretty shabby 97th place: 30 percent of adults here don't meet physical activity targets.
In east and southeast Asia however, physical inactivity decreased from 26 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2016, largely due to increased exercise among the Chinese population, the authors noted. Declines in physical activity are inevitable as countries prosper and use of technology increases, they say. In the US, about 40 percent of adults didn't meet adequate exercise levels.
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.
Among developed nations, it ranked the United States 143rd on the list, the United Kingdom 123rd while Australia came in at 97th, with the higher numbers indicating a more inactive population.
"There is not one silver bullet to overcoming the physical inactivity epidemic", said Knell, who had no part in the new World Health Organization study.
The WHO recommends each adult do at least 150 minutes "moderate-intensity" exercise - such as brisk walking, swimming or gentle cycling - each week, or 75 minutes "vigorous-intensity" activity - such as running or team sports. This is most likely due to high-income countries having more sedentary jobs and recreational activities, as well as methods of transportation that do not require exercise. As a next step the researchers would work on assessing the levels of activities among the children and youth.
The study's release comes ahead of the Third United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting on NCDs and their risk factors, including physical inactivity, being held on 27 September 2018 in NY.