Worldwide prevalence of physical inactivity and its association with human development index in 76 countries

Prev Med. 2011 Jul-Aug;53(1-2):24-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.02.017. Epub 2011 Mar 1.


Objective: To describe the worldwide prevalence of physical inactivity and to analyze its association with development level of each country.

Methods: Pooled analysis of three multicenter studies, conducted between 2002 and 2004, which investigated the prevalence of physical inactivity in 76 countries, and comprised almost 300,000 individuals aged 15 years or older. Each study used the International Physical Activity Questionnaire to assess physical inactivity. The level of development of each country was analyzed by the Human Development Index (HDI).

Results: The crude worldwide prevalence of physical inactivity was 21.4% (95%CI 18.4-24.3), being higher among women (mean=23.7%, 95%CI 20.4-27.1) than men (mean=18.9%, 95%CI 16.2-21.7). It ranged from 2.6% (in Comoros) to 62.3% (in Mauritania), with a median equal to 18%. After weighting for the total population of each country, the worldwide prevalence of physical inactivity was 17.4% (95%CI 15.1-19.7). There was a positive association between HDI and prevalence of physical inactivity (rho=0.27). Less developed countries showed the lowest prevalence of physical inactivity (18.7%), while physical inactivity was more prevalent among the most developed countries (27.8%).

Conclusions: One out of five adults around the world is physically inactive. Physical inactivity was more prevalent among wealthier and urban countries, and among women and elderly individuals.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Human Development
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Prevalence
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult