Abstract Physical inactivity is one of the most important contributors to the global burden of disease and has become a global public health priority. We review the evidence on physical activity (PA) interventions, actions, and strategies that have the greatest potential to increase PA at the population level. Using the socio-ecological framework to conceptualize PA interventions, we show that PA can be targeted at multiple levels of influence and by multiple sectors outside the health system. Examples of promoting PA on a national scale are presented from Finland, Canada, Brazil, and Colombia. A strong policy framework, consistent investment in public health programs, multi-sectoral support and actions, and good surveillance characterize each of these success stories. Increasing PA globally will depend on successfully applying and adapting these lessons around the world taking into account country, culture, and context.