Britain among most inactive nations

Britain has one of the most sedentary populations on earth, with almost twice the proportion of people defined as "inactive" as in neighbouring France, a study has shown.

On the eve of the London Olympics, global figures reveal that even the Americans put us to shame when it comes to taking exercise.

In the UK, 63.3% of the population fails to meet recommended levels of physical activity, thereby increasing their risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

By comparison, 40.5% of US citizens are inactive, despite more than 30% of them being obese.

Britain has the third-highest proportion of inactive adults in Europe after Malta (71.9%) and Serbia (68.3%).

Few countries in the world have a greater inactivity prevalence, with the list topped by Swaziland (69%) and Saudi Arabia (68.8%).

Of the French population, 32.5% are inactive, while in the super-fit Netherlands just 18.2% of people are inactive.

In the Republic of Ireland, 53.2% of the population do insufficient exercise.

Researchers used World Health Organisation survey data, collected by questionnaire, to compare 122 countries representing 89% of the world's population.

Inactivity was defined as not meeting any of three criteria - 30 minutes of moderate activity such as a brisk walk, at least five days a week; 20 minutes of vigorous activity at least three days a week; or an equivalent combination of the two.