But the United States has a much higher obesity rate than Mexico-27.7 percent compared to 18.1 percent. Why? The survey sample included a total of 68 million daily step recordings from over 700,000 users of the Azumio Argus smartphone app. Residents of 111 countries participated, with researchers focusing mostly at the 46 countries that had at least 1,000 users. Sweden, where the difference between the most inactive and most active population isn't much, has low obesity levels.
We all know that the United States of America is the world's top most country in terms of economy and prosperity.
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. According to the research bigger the activity inequality, higher were the rates of obesity. For instance, people from the United States and Mexico walked just as much, but inequality was much higher in the U.S. - and so is the obesity rate.
The researchers were surprised that activity inequality was largely driven by differences between men and women.
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. Using the two latter demographics they were able to calculate each individual's body mass index. The research team checked records for almost 700,000 individuals from 46 countries. On city level, results also show a correlation between the walkability of a city and its activity equality.
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The data showed that NY and San Francisco were pedestrian friendly and easier for people to walk around, whereas Houston and Memphis had "low walkability", meaning people preferred to use a auto.
At the peak of activity inequality, women's activity is decreased "much more dramatically" than that of men, with the negative links to obesity potentially affecting women more, explained co-leader and computer scientist Jure Leskovec. This put the USA fifth from the bottom in the gender step gap. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, diabetes, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer and depression, and is crucial to energy balance and weight control, according to the World Health Organization. "Data science and modeling can be immensely powerful tools".
The researchers are expecting that the health study results could be used to design towns and cities that promote greater physical activity.
Gender was also shown to be a factor in levels of activity inequality. Not unlike what previous studies found, males walked more than females, with outcomes related to this gender gap varying from one nation to another.
The technological star of the project was the increasingly ubiquitous smartphone. Generally speaking, eastern Europe and eastern Asia seem more active, with Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Arab peninsula being the laziest.