Though many in North America might not walk to work or school, those who live in countries like China or Ukraine do, statistically speaking. That’s what a brand new study from Stanford University revealed about global walking patterns.
By collecting data from smartphone users across the globe that used the Argus fitness app, researchers from Stanford University completed a two-year study that analyzed people’s walking patterns. Since most smartphones have a built-in accelerometer, they can count the number of steps you take per day and store that data for future use. In this case, 700,000 people contributed 68 million days worth of data.
"The study is 1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement,” says Scott Delp, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University and co-author of the study. "There have been wonderful health surveys done, but our new study provides data from more countries, many more subjects, and tracks people's activity on an ongoing basis.”
Published in the scientific journal Nature, researchers found that the average human walks 4,961 steps per day. The healthiest countries were Hong Kong (6,880 steps), China (6,189 steps), and Ukraine (6,107 steps).
The laziest countries were Malaysia (3,963 steps), Saudi Arabia (3,807 steps), and Indonesia (3,513 steps), but given how hot each of these countries can get, it's hard to blame anyone for wanting to stay in an air-conditioned car.
In North America, the USA averaged 4,774 steps, Canada 4,819 steps, and Mexico 4,692 steps.
Researchers found the average number of steps did not directly correlate to obesity rates. While a person from Indonesia doesn’t walk as much as a person from the USA, Indonesia’s obesity rate is still far lower than America’s.
Though the number of steps didn't correlate, the difference between the highest stepper and the lowest stepper in any given country did. The larger the gap between the fittest and the unfit, the higher the obesity rate in that country.
Dubbed “activity inequality”, it can be best shown by the example of the USA compared to Mexico. The average between the two countries is fairly similar, with barely an 80 step difference. However, Mexico’s highest stepper is closer to its lowest stepper, while in the USA, the difference between the highest stepper and the lowest stepper is far greater. Thus, the USA has a higher obesity rate than Mexico.
Researchers also found a difference when it came to sex. In countries with a larger activity gap, women tended to be the least active.
Scientists hope that this analysis can be used to better set public policy, and help combat the global obesity epidemic.