Indians among most inactive in the world, finds ground-breaking study

People in Hong Kong particularly are the most active, walking an average of 6,880 steps, followed by China at large (6,189), Ukraine (6,107), Japan (6,010) and Russia (5,969). Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia were ranked the lowest, with people walking less than 4,000 steps a day on an average.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 14, 2017 4:49 pm
Active countries, Footsteps per country, Physical inactivity, Obesity In India, people averaging only 4,297 steps a day, according to a study by Stanford University researchers. (Representational Image)

In comparison with other countries, Indians are ranked as among the laziest, revealed a study conducted by Stanford University researchers. The study, which compared walking patterns of people from 46 countries, placed India at a low 39, with people averaging only 4,297 steps a day. People in Hong Kong particularly are the most active, walking an average of 6,880 steps, followed by China at large (6,189), Ukraine (6,107), Japan (6,010) and Russia (5,969). Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia were ranked the lowest, with people walking less than 4,000 steps a day on an average. While over 70000 people from 111 countries were surveyed, researchers published data from 46 countries with those like China and Hong Kong considered separately.

The UK, Italy, Germany and France average between 5,000-5,500 steps a day, while the US, Australia, Canada and the UAE only manage between 4,500-4,900 steps a day. An average person walks 4,961 steps per day over an average of 14 hours.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature, was able to draw a parallel between the rate of obesity in these countries with the amount people walked. Given that nearly 5.3 million people die annually from diseases related to physical inactivity, researchers probed a ‘simple and convenient’ method of measuring physical activity. The lead researchers, computer scientist Jure Leskovec and bioengineer Scott Delp, described the phenomenon as “activity inequality”, comparing it to the concept of income inequality.

“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,” bioengineer Scott Delp, one of the lead researchers, was quoted as saying in a news article published by Stanford.

The study also found that when data of men and women is compared, obesity increases more rapidly in women due to inactivity, a 232 per cent increase, as opposed to just a 67 per cent increase for men. Leskovec said, “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.”

Researchers conducted the study using smartphones, which were equipped with tiny sensors that automatically record stepping motions, called accelerometres.

Prior research conducted in the US showed ‘walkability’ in a city and pedestrian-friendliness affected activity inequality in an urban setting. “Looking at three California cities in close geographic proximity – San Francisco, San Jose and Fremont – we determined that San Francisco had both the highest walkability score and the lowest level of activity inequality,” researcher Jennifer Hicks said. “In cities that are more walkable everyone tends to take more daily steps, whether male or female, young or old, healthy weight or obese.”

One of the shortcomings, however, was the lack of technology penetration in developing countries. “With the appropriate apps and sensors we can push this research in exciting directions,” said team member Abby King. “We could better link activity within and across populations with food intake, or examine the ways activity and inactivity may affect stress or mental health, as well as investigating how best to fine-tune our environments to promote increased activity.”

(With inputs from Stanford and Nature)

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