A report has revealed that 1.8 billion adults are at risk of diseases and issues like cancer, stroke, dementia and diabetes due to a lack of exercise with the situation getting worse.

The study by World Health Organisation (WHO) researchers and academics found physical inactivity globally has risen by about five percentage points between 2010 and 2022.

Overall, nearly a third of adults (31%) around the world do not exercise enough – this is up from 23% (900 million people) in 2000 and 26% in 2010.

Experts predict that some 35% of people will not be doing enough exercise by 2030, if the current trends continue.

A lack of exercise increases the risk of heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancers such as breast and bowel, research shows.

When it comes to gender differences, it seems women are consistently less likely to exercise than men with inactivity rates of 34% compared to 29%.

The new study, published in The Lancet Global Health journal, warned the world is currently off track from meeting a global target to reduce physical inactivity by 2030.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “These new findings highlight a lost opportunity to reduce cancer, heart disease and improve mental well-being through increased physical activity.

“We must renew our commitments to increasing levels of physical activity and prioritise bold action, including strengthened policies and increased funding, to reverse this worrying trend.”

How much exercise should you do in a day?

Adults should take 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week, WHO recommends.

Examples of moderate activity include very brisk walking (4mph or faster), heavy cleaning such as washing windows or mopping, cycling at 10-12mph or badminton.

Hiking, jogging at 6mph or faster, shovelling, fast cycling, a football game, basketball and tennis are all examples of vigorous activity.

The WHO defines insufficient physical activity as not meeting these weekly exercise guidelines.

The new study included data and estimates for 163 countries and territories and found people over 60 are less active than those who are younger.

Although high-income Western countries appear to be slowly reducing rates of inactivity (to 28% of people in 2022), they are still off track.

The World Health Assembly has set a global target (widely expected to be missed) of a 15% reduction in insufficient physical activity between 2010 and 2030.

Dr Rudiger Krech, director of health promotion at WHO, said: “Physical inactivity is a silent threat to global health, contributing significantly to the burden of chronic diseases.

“By making physical activity accessible, affordable, and enjoyable for all, we can significantly reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases and create a population that is healthier and more productive.”

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, director of research, policy and innovation at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This timely report is a wake-up call to the world that more needs to be done to encourage people to be more active.

“Governments must recognise that being physically active is incredibly important for our mental and physical health, including protecting against several cancers and supporting people to be a healthy weight, which in turn reduces the risk of 13 cancer types.”

Huw Edwards, chief executive of ukactive, the UK’s trade body for the exercise sector, said: “These figures should sound the alarm bell for nations around the world and we need to see more urgent action from the next Government to address physical inactivity in the UK.

“Physical activity is essential in reducing rates of long-term health conditions so if we do not prioritise getting more people active, the strain on our NHS and our economy will grow.

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“We are calling on the Government to first commit to making the UK the most active nation in Europe and deploy the physical activity sector to boost the nation’s physical and mental health.”

How inactive are people in the UK?

Figures from the report suggest the UK is slowly decreasing inactivity with 20% of people currently inactive.

The UK is on track to meet the 15% target reduction from 2010 to 2030, assuming the current trend continues.