A 2022 report from WHO has made a global assessment of inactivity and its impact on health, building on top of a 2020 report. Strictly defined as any waking behavior such as sitting or leaning with an energy expenditure of 1.5 metabolic equivalent task (MET), sedentary activities occupy an alarming and growing portion of the day globally - currently 60-85% of the global population. In sum, sedentary lifestyles contribute to the death of approximately 3.2 million people every year.

As well as being the key source for poor mental health and functional limitations (access to services), sedentary lifestyle increases the risks for cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes mellitus (DM), hypertension (HTN), and a range of cancers.*


According to the WHO report, in the ten years between 2020 and 2030, 500 million people will develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes or other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) attributable to physical inactivity. Data from 194 countries show that progress on improving general population health is slow. The current economic cost of treating new cases of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the U.S. is $117 billion annually (CDC).

In terms of measures to re-balance:

  • Less than 50% of countries reported having a national physical activity policy. Of those that do, fewer than 40% are operational (fewer than 40 countries).
  • While nearly all countries report a system for monitoring physical activity in adults, 75% of countries monitor physical activity among adolescents, and less than 30% monitor physical activity in children under 5 years.
  • Only 31% of the global population aged under 15 years engages in insufficient physical activity,


A Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA) 2018-2030 sets out 20 policy recommendations – including policies to create safer roads to encourage more active transport, provide more programmes and opportunities for physical activity in key settings (childcare, schools, primary health care and the workplace).

  • WHO recommends adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
  • Breaking up prolonged sitting with regular movement throughout the day can also have significant health benefits.
  • Governments and communities need to implement strategies to promote physical activity and reduce sedentary behavior.

// * cancers include breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial, and epithelial ovarian.