Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. We summarise present global efforts to counteract this problem and point the way forward to address the pandemic of physical inactivity. Although evidence for the benefits of physical activity for health has been available since the 1950s, promotion to improve the health of populations has lagged in relation to the available evidence and has only recently developed an identifiable infrastructure, including efforts in planning, policy, leadership and advocacy, workforce training and development, and monitoring and surveillance. The reasons for this late start are myriad, multifactorial, and complex. This infrastructure should continue to be formed, intersectoral approaches are essential to advance, and advocacy remains a key pillar. Although there is a need to build global capacity based on the present foundations, a systems approach that focuses on populations and the complex interactions among the correlates of physical inactivity, rather than solely a behavioural science approach focusing on individuals, is the way forward to increase physical activity worldwide.
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