India coal
A laborer carries a basket filled with coal at a railway yard in Chandigarh. Reuters

A new study from the medical journal Lancet dispels the common misconception of India as a physically unfit country amid rising rates of diabetes and heart disease, providing evidence that the majority of Indians are, in fact, physically active.

The study, which measured physical activity among people over 15 years old across 122 different countries, found that only 15.6 percent of Indians were physically inactive. By comparison, 40.5 percent of Americans, 63.3 percent of British and 60.2 percent of Japanese were found to be physically inactive.

The study demonstrates a correlation between countries with higher per capita income and higher rates of physical inactivity.

While India's middle class is growing -- taking up office jobs and consuming high-fat diets -- the vast majority of the country's 1.24 billion population is still engaged in physical labor as a livelihood, particularly farming.

Poorer countries where people rely on physical labor for subsistence naturally found lower levels of physical inactivity.

Bangladesh, whose per capita income was $1,700 in 2011, had the lowest level of physical inactivity (4.7 percent). India's per capita income was $3,700 that year, while in the U.S. it was $49,000, according to the CIA World Fact Book.