These smartphones are made for walking


A Stanford University study has found Kiwis are amongst the most sedentary people in the world.

New Zealanders walk an average of almost four kilometres or 4,582 steps a day, which sounds impressive but pales in comparison with many other nations.

Australia, the UK, almost every country in Europe and Asia take more steps a day than Kiwis – even Americans average 192 steps more than New Zealanders.

Clearly Kiwi workers need to take more exercise, be it downloading more smartphone exercise apps and using them, walking to work wherever possible and using the stairs rather than taking the lift.

New Zealanders were already the chubbiest of 11 nations according to Cigna 360° Wellbeing Score research in 2016 and the latest 2017 research reveals the general health score is 1.7 per cent lower than last year.

These disturbing findings were further underlined by new research published online in Nature, which suggests that determining the disparity of physical activity distribution within a country is a better predictor of obesity in a population than average activity volume.

An understanding of the basic principles governing physical activity is needed to curb the global pandemic of physical inactivity and the 5.3 million deaths per year caused by such inactivity.

Although previous surveillance and population studies have revealed that physical activity levels vary widely between countries, more information is needed about variations in activity levels within countries and how physical activity disparities, health outcomes, and modifiable factors, such as the built environment, are related.

Jure Leskovec and colleagues studied data from 717,527 anonymized users of a step-tracker and calorie-counter smartphone application, and focused their research on 46 countries with at least 1,000 users each.

The authors quantified the activity–obesity relationship at the individual level and found that obesity increases more rapidly in women than men as activity decreases.

For example, the US and Mexico have a similar number of daily steps, but the US exhibits larger activity inequality and higher obesity than Mexico.

So, given two countries with identical average activity levels the country with higher activity inequality will have a greater fraction of low-activity individuals, many of them women, leading to higher obesity for that country than is predicted from average activity levels alone.

The authors also find that in more walkable cities, activity is greater throughout both the day and week — across age, gender and body mass index — with the greatest increases in activity for women.