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.

lazy brits

Are you a lazy Brit?

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.

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

Researchers used World Health Organisation (WHO) 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.

The findings, part of a series of studies on physical activity published in The Lancet medical journal, suggest that, worldwide, roughly three out of every 10 adults aged 15 and over do too little exercise.

Study leader Dr Pedro Hallal, from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, said: "Although the technical revolution has been of great benefit to many populations throughout the world, it has come at a major cost in terms of the contribution of physical inactivity to the worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases.

Feeling lazy? Here are 25 easy ways to move more...

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  • Stand At The Bar

    Rather than nursing a drink sitting down, belly up to the bar, or grab dinner at a high table with bar stools. <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20534367_4,00.html" target="_hplink">Leaning against a high stool</a> is a step up from sitting, but can be more comfy than standing all night, <em>Health</em> magazine reported.

  • Mini Golf

    This old-timey favorite is fun for kids and adults alike, and can burn 100 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/machineisorganic/6740536715/" target="_hplink">Machine is Organic</a></em>

  • Take A Swim

    You don't have to be Michael Phelps to get a water workout. Even some leisurely splashing around can shave off 200 calories, and it's a great way to stay cool in the heat, too! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/311692139/" target="_hplink">Joe Shlabotnik</a></em>

  • Build A Sand Castle

    Instead of just lounging on the sand working on your tan, get up and move around if you're at the beach this weekend. Bonus: Digging in the sand can be a surprisingly <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/great-summer-workouts?page=3" target="_hplink">good workout for abs and obliques</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donhomer/7200149722/" target="_hplink">Michael Bentley</a></em>

  • Dance

    Let the music move you when you're out on Saturday night. A little boogying can burn 150 calories in just 30 minutes.

  • Throw A Frisbee

    You're not chained to that park bench! If you're already enjoying the outdoors, why not throw around a Frisbee or a football, pass a volleyball or kick a soccer ball? It doesn't have to be strenuous -- you don't even have to be any good! -- but it will get you up and moving. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/458811240/" target="_hplink">Elvert Barnes</a></em>

  • Go On An Exercise Date

    If you've got a date night planned this weekend, skip dinner and a movie in favor of something that gets you off your rears. It doesn't have to be a trip to the gym or a jog -- it can be anything active you like doing together. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/7283892652/" target="_hplink">Tobyotter</a></em>

  • Row A Boat

    Many local parks, rivers and lakes have row boats, canoes or kayaks available for rent. No matter your vessel of choice, it's a fun, seasonal way to burn some serious calories. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/inner-eye-photo/6849944748/" target="_hplink">Josh Hawley</a></em>

  • Play Fetch

    During the busy week, you sometimes might just let your pet out in the backyard to dig up his own trouble. This weekend, spend a little extra time moving with him. Play fetch, give him that much-needed belly rub or take him on an extra-long walk. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/4255290603/" target="_hplink">footloosiety</a></em>

  • Catch Up On A Walk

    If you've made plans to meet a friend for coffee, take your catch up session to-go instead and gab on a walk. Even strolling at a snail's pace will burn 85 calories in 30 minutes!

  • Play Bar Games

    Put down the drink for some foosball or pool if you're at a bar this weekend that offers it. Thirty minutes of pool can shave off 85 calories, not to mention you may save yourself a few if your hands aren't wrapped tightly around that pint glass. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15216811@N06/5842783313/" target="_hplink">Nicola since 1972</a></em>

  • Take A Hike

    Head for the hills! Depending on where you live, a hike can be a weekend expedition or a quick afternoon adventure. It's a change of scenery and a great way to spend some time outdoors. If you're feeling sporty enough to tackle some hills, you can burn almost 250 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/4104101152/" target="_hplink">mikebaird</a></em>

  • Go Cab-Free

    If you typically find yourself hailing a taxi on the weekends, try hoofing it instead. If your destination is too far to make it on foot, try public transportation -- and leave the seat for someone else. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tmab2003/3180940701/" target="_hplink">TMAB2003</a></em>

  • Play Lawn Games

    If you have plans to barbecue this weekend, break out the lawn games to get you out of your seat. Try <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/lawn-games-calorie-counts-memorial-day-_n_1546462.html" target="_hplink">croquet</a> or badminton, which can burn more than 150 calories in 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessabc/5835828281/" target="_hplink">Jessa B.C.</a></em>

  • Go Window Shopping

    Those people who do their exercise walking around the mall are onto something. Whether or not you plan to buy anything, browsing around your favorite shopping center gets you moving -- especially if you decide to wiggle in and out of a few things in the dressing room. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyharris/2774384836/" target="_hplink">jimmyharris</a></em>

  • Visit A Museum

    Spend some time strolling through the halls and galleries of your favorite museum. You'll give your brain a workout while you're at it!

  • Get Takeout Instead Of Delivery

    Pick your favorite nearby joint and walk to pick up your meal.

  • Wash The Car

    Sure, it might take a little longer than sitting through the drive-thru, but you get the pleasure of working those muscles a little bit.

  • Cook

    Instead of sitting at a restaurant waiting to be served, why not whip something up at home? You'll be on your feet slicing, chopping, mixing and more, not to mention cleaning up after yourself. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/janicecullivan/4262146921/" target="_hplink">mamaloco</a></em>

  • Plant A Garden

    A number of <a href="http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/lawn_garden/home_gardening/vegetables/Variety+Of+Vegetables+Can+Be+Planted+In+Late+Summer.htm" target="_hplink">fall veggies</a> are ready for planting now. Spending an hour digging, crouching, weeding and planting in your garden <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/memorial-day-chores-calories_n_1543691.html#slide=1018494" target="_hplink">can burn more than 300 calories</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7682623@N02/7343305940/" target="_hplink">auntjojo</a></em>

  • Take A Bike Ride

    You don't have be imitate the Tour de France! Even the most casual rides can burn 200 calories an hour. Don't own a bike? Many cities now have <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2011-05-08-bike-sharing-programs_n.htm" target="_hplink">bike share programs</a> that allow you to take a short spin for a small fee, and some parks have bikes available for rent, too. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chinny_chin_chin00/6137088467/" target="_hplink">machernucha</a></em>

  • Play Laser Tag

    Go old-school, and grab a group of friends to head to the nearest <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/make-fitness-fun_n_1465840.html#slide=921050" target="_hplink">laser tag</a> arena. You'll run, jump, squat, crawl -- all in the name of fun and (healthy) competition. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/324447996/" target="_hplink">shawnzrossi</a></em>

  • Go Rock Climbing

    With the increase in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/sports/the-sport-of-bouldering-climbs-in-popularity.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">popularity of bouldering</a>, you no longer need a load of gear (and experience!) to reap the fitness benefits of rock climbing. Try it out at a local gym -- you'll burn calories and seriously work those arm muscles. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/toolmantim/6728078909/" target="_hplink">toolmantim</a></em>

  • Go Bowling

    It's not just for dads in bowling shirts! Grab a pair of nerdy-chic shoes and aim straight. You may even wiggle a little arm workout out of it! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/junklab/68904368/" target="_hplink">junklab</a></em>

  • Start A Wii Fit Competition

    Dreaming of a couch-potato weekend? Turn that screen time into something more productive by challenging a roommate, spouse or kid to a Wii Fit boxing or tennis match. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashawolff/3190273060/" target="_hplink">SashaW</a></em>

"Societal trends are leading to less not more activity than previously, and with few exceptions, health professionals have been unable to mobilise governments and populations to take physical inactivity seriously as a public health issue."

The research also found that more than 80% of 13 to 15-year-olds around the world do not get the minimum recommended hour of moderate exercise a day.

A second study found that lack of physical activity leads to 6% to 10% of all cases of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and breast and bowel cancer.

Globally, it was responsible for around 5.3m of the 57m deaths that occurred in 2008.

The contribution of insufficient exercise to disease and shortened lifespan was similar to that of smoking or obesity.

Researchers calculated the extent to which non-communicable diseases could be prevented if all a country's inactive population became active.

The estimates suggest that, worldwide, 6% of heart disease cases are linked to lack of exercise, ranging from 3.2% in south-east Asia to 7.8% in the eastern Mediterranean.

Where Do You Sit On The Global Fat Scale? (PICTURES)

Low levels of physical activity are blamed for around 7% of type-2 diabetes cases, and 10% of breast and bowel cancer cases.

Average life expectancy worldwide would rise by around 0.68 years if no one was physically inactive, said the researchers. Eradicating smoking and obesity would achieve about the same result.

Study leader Dr I-Min Lee, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, said: "This summer we will admire the breathtaking feats of athletes competing in the 2012 Olympic Games.

"Although only the smallest fraction of the population will attain these heights, the overwhelming majority of us are able to be physically active at very modest levels, e.g. 15 to 30 minutes a day of brisk walking, which bring substantial health benefits."

If you're struggling to get motivated, take a look at these inspiring tips on getting more active...

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  • 10 Inspiring Ways To Think Yourself Fit

    How to 'think yourself fit' this spring by fitness trainer and coach <a href="http://www.timweeks.co.uk/" target="_hplink"><strong>Tim Weeks</strong></a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/tim_weeks" target="_hplink"><strong>Follow Tim on Twitter</strong></a>

  • Enjoy It

    If there is no passion in what you do, even the greatest motivation power wont get you over the first hurdle. Loving what you do makes the whole 'fitness experience' a lot of fun. Think of it like your job: hate your job and the week drags by. Love your job and nothing is ever a problem and motivation is constantly high.

  • Give Yourself Plenty Of Options

    Due to your natural peaks and troughs of ones mood (especially for women due to menstrual cycle), you need to have 4 or 5 different activities to choose from depending on your mood.   If you really can't be bothered, having an easy option like a walk will mean you don't need superhero powers to motivate yourself to get off the sofa.  Try as many different activities as you can until you find a few that 'click'.

  • Set Yourself A Challenge

    However cliché this sounds, it works. This doesn't necessarily mean signing up to the London marathon or climbing Everest. It might be trying to complete a lap of the park jogging without walking.

  • Invest In A Decent Trainer

    Anyone can write a programme. The real talented trainers out there have something very special about them.   Look at Jose Mourhino. Love him or hate him. He has an amazing ability to motivate people and unlock peoples potential to allow them to reach new heights.  Having that 'motivator' at your side should be able to unlock that 'belief' within you that everyone has. Look for someone who is interested in your long term development. They can actually help you put all of these 10 items in this list into place.  Not just getting ready for the beach in 4 weeks time.

  • Build A Fortress Around You

    'Stuff' happens in life that you have to deal with as you go along (good or bad). Build a support network of good people around you for when bad times arrive. It therefore means you don't always have to rely on will power. Having good people around you can actually kick start your motivation for you without you even realising.

  • Share Your Achievements

    If you get feedback from another person, their enthusiasm can help you feel valued. If you feel good about yourself, you naturally enter a self generating positive motivation cycle.

  • Have An Incentive

    This may sound ridiculous but it can work.  Put a chart on your fridge for 10 sessions.  When you have completed all 10, treat yourself. Buy an item like a handbag, a pair of shoes or a book. The physical item is a nice reminder to yourself of how amazing you are and what you have achieved.

  • Have A Fitness Buddy

    Sometimes having a friend giving you a kick up the bum is really helpful. You can actually motivate each other. Especially useful if one can't be bothered.

  • Don't Go Over The Top

    If you go over the top and set yourself totally unrealistic goals (eg I am going to exercise everyday) the low you feel is VERY low. You then need superhuman motivational powers to get back on track.  Don't put yourself in the position in the first place.

  • Take Time Off

    If you exercise regularly, at some point you will hit a motivational lull. Therefore, when you go on holiday, enjoy yourself. Forget exercise.  It will recharge your brain so you get back that hunger.