'Activity Inequality' Behind US Obesity Problem: Study

US ranks 30th out of 46 countries in activity level
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2017 5:59 PM CDT
Study Finds Obese US Isn't Getting Its Steps In
A new study measuring the daily steps of more than 700,000 people in 46 countries found the US lagging behind.   (Getty Images/woraput)

Americans are lazier than people from Russia, China, Switzerland, Belgium, Turkey, Chile, and a whole host of other countries—at least according to a new study of walking habits published in Nature. The study tracked the walking activity of more than 700,000 people using cellphone data, USA Today reports. Researcher Scott Delpy tells the BBC it was "1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement." Americans averaged 4,774 steps per day—below the worldwide average of 4,961 steps per day and good enough for 30th out of 46 countries. Hong Kong topped the list at 6,880 steps per day, and Indonesia could stake a claim as the laziest country with just 3,513 steps per day.

So why doesn't Indonesia have higher rates of obesity than the US? Researchers found that more important than overall average activity levels was what they call "activity inequality," or the difference between a country's most and least active people. In countries were everyone takes about the same number of steps per day—Sweden, say—obesity levels are low. Meanwhile, the US had the fourth worst levels of activity inequality in the study. According to a press release, researchers were surprised to learn activity inequality was largely driven by 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,” researcher Jure Leskovec says. (Read more obesity stories.)

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