IRISH adults are among the worst couch potatoes in Europe. More than half admit they are not taking the recommended levels of weekly exercise.
A new global study reveals Ireland is the seventh worst country for lack of exercise among 36 nations.
The series on physical inactivity published in the 'Lancet' medical journal today warns that sedentary lifestyle is a "global pandemic". It causes around one in 10 deaths worldwide, comparable to the impact of smoking.
It increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast and bowel cancer, the series published in advance of the Olympic Games pointed out.
Around three out of every 10 adults worldwide do not meet the recommended amounts of weekly activity.
While millions will admire the powerful athleticism of competitors from their armchairs, they themselves will not be managing the do even a modest recommended 15-30 minutes a day of brisk walking.
"Worldwide, around a third of adults (about 1.5 billion people) and four out of five adolescents are failing to do the recommended amounts of physical activity.
"It places them at 20--30pc greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer," said the report.
Within Europe, countries with the greatest prevalence of inactive adults were Malta (71pc), Serbia (68pc) and the UK (63pc) while those who took the most exercise were in Greece, Estonia and the Netherlands.
Among Irish women, inactivity levels rise to 58.5pc while men are slightly better at 47.8pc. In the UK 68.6pc of women are inactive compared to 58pc of men.
Researchers analysed 100 reviews of measures taken to get people on their feet to find out what works.
"Successful examples included promoting exercise and community events through mass media campaigns.
"Social support networks such as buddy systems and walking clubs were also important, as were free exercise classes in public places."
Improved street lighting and aesthetics can boost activity levels by as much as 50pc. Another potentially effective intervention involves closing city streets to cars for the use of walkers, runners, skaters, and cyclists on Sunday mornings and public holidays.
"New evidence also suggests that some people might be genetically predisposed to being physically active while evolutionary factors and obesity might also add to the propensity to be inactive."