MORE than one in three Irish people admits that they never exercise – a rise of 8pc in just four years, according to a new Europe-wide survey.
A lazy lifestyle appears to be getting a greater grip on more people, although the excuse most of us give is that we don't have enough time.
And while the numbers who say they exercise regularly is as low as 16pc – making us a nation of couch potatoes – it is still the best performance of all countries, the EU report shows.
It found that across Europe on average just 8pc of citizens say they are taking exercise regularly, a 7pc drop since 2009.
The findings, released by the European Commission, said 59pc of EU citizens "never or seldom exercise or play sport, while 41pc do so at least once a week".
Lack of exercise increases our risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and ideally we should be moderately active for 30 minutes at least five times a week.
The survey said that, generally, northern Europe is more physically active than the south and east. Seven out of 10 people surveyed in Sweden said they exercise or play sport at least once a week, just ahead of Denmark (68pc) and Finland (66pc). They are followed by the next most active nations the Netherlands (58pc) and Luxembourg (54pc).
But when it comes to engaging in some activity for their health, as many as 78pc in Bulgaria never exercise, followed by Malta (75pc), Portugal (64pc), Romania (60pc) and Italy (60pc).
The main reason given by Irish people for not taking part in sport was lack of time – at 44pc we are just above the EU average of 42pc.
We were also least likely to cite lack of motivation or interest as a reason for not being more active.
Irish people are the fourth most likely to engage in voluntary work that supports sporting activities, after Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Commenting on the findings, Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner responsible for sport, said: "The results confirm the need for measures to encourage more people to make sport and physical activity a part of their daily lives.
"This is crucial, not only in terms of an individual's health, well-being and integration, but also because of the significant economic costs resulting from physical inactivity."
The survey was carried out for the European Commission by the TNS Opinion and Social network over November and December last year. Nearly 28,000 respondents from different social and population groups took part in the poll.