Saudi Arabia's population is the third most slothful in the world, new research has found, with 68.8 percent of adults failing to do enough physical exercise to keep themselves healthy.
Only in Malta and Swaziland do adults exert themselves less than Saudi Arabia, and women in the Gulf state are the world’s least active females, according to data published in the Lancet medical journal.
Kuwait and the UAE also rank in the top ten with 64.5 percent and 62.5 percent of adults respectively not meeting the recommended level of activity. Malta is the laziest country in the world with 71.9 percent of the population deemed inactive, while in Swaziland the proportion is 68.3 percent.
Nine eastern Mediterranean countries featured in the list with those over 15-years old in Libya considered the most active of the region (45.8 percent inactive), ahead of Lebanon (46.8 percent), Iraq (58.4 percent) and the UAE (62.5 percent).
The report, published to coincide with the London Olympics, warned that a lack of exercise is causing as many deaths - 5.3m - as smoking. One in ten deaths is caused by illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancer.
Researchers, who said the problem was now so bad it should be treated as a pandemic, said governments need to look at ways to make physical activity more convenient, affordable and safer.
“With the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games, sport and physical activity will attract tremendous worldwide attention. Although the world will be watching elite athletes from many countries compete in sporting events... most spectators will be quite inactive,” said Pedro Hallal, one of the lead researchers.
“The global challenge is clear - make physical activity a public health priority throughout the world to improve health and reduce the burden of disease.”
It is recommended that adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling or gardening, each week.
The Lancet report follows weeks after a report published by BMC Public Health ranked Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain among the world’s top ten fattest nations.
The average person in Kuwait, the second fattest country in the world behind the US, weighs in at approximately 77.5 kg, 15.5kg heavier than the global average, said the report.
Gas-rich Qatar was ranked third globally with the average adult consuming just over 3,000 calories per day, followed by the UAE in fifth place (3017 calories) and Bahrain in tenth position (2889 calories).
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