More than a quarter of the world's adults (1.4bn people) were insufficiently active, according to the data. The study reveals that countries having high-income, including the United Kingdom, were among the least active leading to higher risk of health issues like heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer.
They were based in 168 countries and had nearly 1.9 million people.
The UK also has high levels of inactivity - 40% of women do not move enough compared with 32% of men. In Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, more than half of adults were classified as insufficiently active. In less well-off countries, people tend to be more active at work and for transport, they said. Their findings were published Tuesday in The Lancet Global Health journal.
The WHO says insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for premature death worldwide. In comparison, east and southeast Asia recorded the largest decrease in insufficient activity, from 26 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2016, which was largely influenced by uptake of physical activity in China. It takes just 75 minutes of that type of physical activity each week to meet the guidelines.
Comparatively, around 40 percent of USA adults and 36 percent of British adults got too little activity. However this can be as high as one in three adults inactive in some counties.
The study from the four World Health Organization experts Regina Guthold, Gretchen Stevens, Leanne Riley and Professor Fiona Bull, analysed the trends of physical activity worldwide for the first time and shows that since 2001 there has been little change.
Levels of insufficient activity to guard off non-communicable killers, including dementia and cardiovascular diseases, are more than twice as high in high-income countries compared to developing nations.
Around 1.4 billion adults are not physically active enough to stay healthy, says the research.
In wealthier countries, the transition towards more sedentary occupations, recreation and motorised transport could explain the higher levels of inactivity, while in lower-income countries, more activity is undertaken at work and for transport, according to the authors.
China and Russian Federation had relatively low ratios of physically inactive adults at 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
"Countries will need to improve policy implementation to increase physical activity opportunities and encourage more people to be physically active", Dr. The results suggested "that improving sidewalks was not sufficient to increase physical activity among those who are inactive, whereas for those who are already active, living near improved sidewalks was associated with increases in reported leisure-time and walking activity".