Research that was conducted by Stanford University, by using physical activity data gathered by smartphone apps, shows that Americans are one of the laziest nations in the world.
Researchers used mean number of steps people walked on daily basis. Data was gathered from 111 countries where about 700,000 men and women were observed for 95 days. All this data was obtained via Azumio Argus app that keeps track of health behaviors.
Physical activity inequality gave more precise image of obesity levels. Here activity inequality is referred to huge difference between the active and none-active and between the fittest and the laziest. The study showed that people in countries with low obesity rate walk similar in terms in terms of step numbers.
High level obesity overlapped with countries that have those major gaps between people who walk a lot and the ones who are almost inactive. Most active people live in Hong Kong, they take 6,880 each day steps on average which is 3.3 miles or 6 km. On the other side are Indonesians with the number of only 3,513 steps daily.
With 4774 steps on average, Americans are on the fourth place starting from the bottom. This is the consequence of the gap between the most active people and those with low step number rates.
Surprisingly gender had a big significance in this study. Researchers said that earlier studies, conducted mainly in th U.S. revealed women walk less than men. This also affected differences in each country’s physical activity. Although gender concerning results were different in each country, women were in almost every case less active than men. As population-wide activity got lower, predominance of obesity increased faster for women.
“When activity inequality is greatest, women’s activity is reduced much more dramatically than men’s activity, and thus the negative connections to obesity can affect women more greatly,” said Jure Leskovec, one of the researchers.
Disproportionately reduced activity for females was found in countries that had big gender activity differences, one of which is America. Authors said in those countries gender gap accounted for 43 percent of activity inequality. By this ranking U.S. is fifth from the bottom. Countries that have low obesity and inequality rates (i.e. Japan) both genders exercise to similar amount.
According to researchers working on creating a pleasing and safe environment for walking would probably reduce inequality and the gender activity gap.
A bioengeineer who participated in this study said that people will choose cars over walking in they “must cross major highways to get from point A to point B in a city” and therefore city’s walkability becomes low. “In cities like New York and San Francisco, where you can get across town on foot safely, the city has high walkability.” Some studies concerning cities showed that wen city is more walkable, women under 50 years are probably increase their number of steps.
This study, said researchers, used a new way of population activity studies by using smartphones to collect data. They think this model can be later used in other such studies.
Team member and professor of medicine and health research and policy, Abby King said that this research could be pushed in exciting directions “with the appropriate apps and sensor”. She also added “We could better link activity within and across populations with food intake, or examine the ways activity and inactivity may affect stress or mental health, as well as investigating how best to fine-tune our environments to promote increased activity.”