Smartphone data on more than 700,000 people around the world has revealed which countries are the most and least active, with the average Brit walking 5,444 steps each day – less than three miles.
A team of researchers at Stanford University conducted the study, analysing 68 million days’ worth of minute-by-minute walking habits of 717,527 anonymous people from 111 countries, all of whom were using the physical tracking app Argus.
They were investigating the impact that activity levels, location and gender impact an individual’s weight.
The scientists focused specifically on 46 countries, each of which had at least 1,000 Argus app users. 90 per cent of those users lived in high-income countries, while 10 per cent were from 14 middle-income countries.
Hong Kong was found to be the most physically active country, with the average person taking 6,880 steps each day, followed by China, Ukraine, Japan and Russia.
At the other end of the scale, Indonesians walked the fewest number of steps on average, with 3,513 steps each day. Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Philippines and South Africa completed the bottom five.
Out of the countries that you were included in the study, the UK ranked 12th for the average amount of steps taken. Meanwhile the US ranked 30th, with the average American walking 4,774 steps every day. Overall, the global average for daily steps was 4,961.
“The study is 1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement,” said Scott Delp, one of the researchers involved in 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 in their free-living environments versus a survey in which you rely on people to self-report their activity.
“This opens the door to new ways of doing science at a much larger scale than we have been able to do before.”
In the study, the authors discussed the term ‘activity inequality’, saying that it plays a vital role in a country’s obesity levels. Wealth inequality is the difference between rich and poor, and activity inequality therefore refers to the difference between the fittest and laziest in a country. The greater the activity inequality, the higher the levels of obesity are.
Researcher Tim Althoff said: “For instance, Sweden had one of the smallest gaps between activity rich and activity poor… it also had one of the lowest rates of obesity.”
Mexico and the US were found to have a similar number of average steps taken, but the US had markedly higher levels of activity inequality and obesity, in one such example of activity inequality.
The study was published in the journal Nature.