If you take 10,000 steps a day, you're well ahead of the average person on Earth, who takes only about 5,000 steps a day, according to a new study that used smartphone data to track step counts from around the world.
The study analyzed anonymous smartphone data from more than 700,000 people in 111 countries or territories. All the participants used the smartphone app Argus, which tracks physical activity (including step counts) using the phone's accelerometer. Users' steps were tracked for 95 days, on average. (Most of the study's analysis relied on data from the 46 countries and territories that had at least 1,000 users each.)
Overall, the average user took 4,961 steps per day. Step counts were highest in Hong Kong, where people took an average of 6,880 steps a day, followed by China, with 6,189 steps, and Ukraine, with 6,107 steps. The countries with the fewest average daily steps were Malaysia, with 3,963 steps; Saudi Arabia, with 3,807 steps; and Indonesia, with 3,513 steps.
Out of the 46 countries with at least 1,000 users, the United States ranked 30th, with an average daily step count of 4,774. [4 Easy Ways to Get More Exercise]
Interestingly, the researchers found that a country's average step count wasn't the best predictor of that nation's obesity rate. Instead, a factor the researchers called "activity inequality" turned out to be more important. This is the difference between the most and least active people in a country (similar to "income inequality," which is the difference between the richest and poorest people). A country's level of activity inequality was strongly tied to its obesity rate, the researchers found.
"If you think about some people in a country as 'activity rich' and others as 'activity poor,' the size of the gap between them is a strong indicator of obesity levels in that society," Scott Delp, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.
For example, Sweden had one of the smallest gaps between the most and least active people, and also has one of the lowest obesity rates. In contrast, the United States had a large gap between the most and least activity people (it was fourth from the bottom in overall activity inequality), and also has a relatively high obesity rate.
The researchers additionally found that places that are more "walkable" (i.e., where it's easier to get around on foot) tend to have lower levels of activity inequality.
"In cities that are more walkable, everyone tends to take more daily steps, whether male or female, young or old, [of] healthy weight or obese," said study co-author Jennifer Hicks, the director of data science for the Mobilize Center at Stanford. This finding shows the importance of the "built environment" (or the human-made surroundings where people live and work) in influencing activity levels and health, the researchers said.
The study was published online July 10 in the journal Nature.
Original article on Live Science.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.