Background: Physical inactivity is an important risk factor for chronic diseases, but for many (mainly developing) countries, no prevalence data have ever been published.
Objective: To present data on the prevalence of physical inactivity for 51 countries and for different age groups and settings across these countries.
Methods: Data analysis (conducted in 2007) included data from 212,021 adult participants whose questionnaires were culled from 259,526 adult observations from 51 countries participating in the World Health Survey (2002-2003). The validated International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was used to assess days and duration of vigorous, moderate, and walking activities during the last 7 days.
Results: Country prevalence of physical inactivity ranged from 1.6% (Comoros) to 51.7% (Mauritania) for men and from 3.8% (Comoros) to 71.2% (Mauritania) for women. Physical inactivity was generally high for older age groups and lower in rural as compared to urban areas.
Conclusions: Overall, about 15% of men and 20% of women from the 51 countries analyzed here (most of which are developing countries) are at risk for chronic diseases due to physical inactivity. There were substantial variations across countries and settings. The baseline information on the magnitude of the problem of physical inactivity provided by this study can help countries and health policymakers to set up interventions addressing the global chronic disease epidemic.