Do you live in the world's laziest country?

Counting steps via smartphones reveals intriguing clues about obesity

Users of the app had their daily step counts recorded by the accelerometer in the smartphone, which were provided to the researchers, along with basic information about their age, gender, height, and weight. China and Sweden followed in second and third place, with people in the two countries walking an average of 6,189 and 5,863 steps per day respectively.

Hong Kong found to be the "fittest" finishing at the top of the list with people taking an average of 6,880 steps per day. The huge dataset allowed researchers to analyze step data according to country, gender and community type.

The researchers, who are sharing their findings on an activity inequality website, hope their work will help improve public health campaigns against obesity and support policies to make cities more "walkable".

As pedestrian friendly cities such as NY had a higher average step count, researchers believe this could influence town planning, leading to more areas promoting physical activity.

Interestingly, the research also found that activity inequality was largely driven by gender differences. Individuals in the five countries with the greatest activity inequality are almost 200 percent more likely to be obese than individuals from the five countries with the lowest activity inequality.

Saudi Arabia has been ranked as the least active country in the world, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at US-based Stanford University.

The United States was amongst countries with greatest activity inequality.

Nearly three-quarters of adults in developed countries and half of adults in developing economies carry smartphones, which are typically equipped with accelerometers that can record stepping motions.

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Of course, that data only represents an average of all the users in each country. Countries where everyone reported similar levels of activity had much lower obesity rates than countries like the United States, which has a mix of very active and very sedentary users.

The main takeaway from the study was that it wasn't the average activity of a country that correlated with its obesity rates, but the range of activity levels contained in that average.

The researchers also said that their findings could promote greater physical activity and help in the development of town and cities.

"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.

But qualifying the smartphone as a tool for this type of research was no cakewalk.

Delp added that the result of the new #Health Study opens the door to new ways of doing science at a much larger scale than ever before.

Scott Delp, a professor of bioengineering, said: "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'.

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