Study Tracks Step Data from More than 100 Countries


Researchers at Stanford University have tracked physical activity by country in the largest study on human movement to date. The study used step data from anonymous smart phone users in more than 100 countries.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, followed a 2012 estimate published in the Lancet that more than 5 million people die each year from causes related to inactivity.

The study found that globally, the average user recorded about 5,000 steps a day, which is also about what the average American recorded. Although no specific state by state step data is available, West Virginia ranks as 7th “least active state,” according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study also tracked whether a country had high rates of “activity inequality,” which means the range from most to least active within a given country. The US has high rates of activity inequality while countries like Mexico had more uniform activity patterns. They found that people in the five countries with the greatest activity inequality are nearly 200 percent more likely to be obese than individuals from the five countries with the lowest activity inequality.

In the US, 69 cities were studied. Those with higher walkability scores were associated with lower activity inequality. Even in cities with higher walkability, though, women were less active than men.

The study was advanced published this week in the online version of the magazine Nature.

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Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.