Counting steps via smartphones reveals intriguing clues about obesity

Counting steps via smartphones reveals intriguing clues about obesity

Based on accelerometers step counter data from hundreds of thousands of mobile phones from around the world, people in Indonesia take the fewest average steps per day of any country reviewed by the researchers.

The average number of steps in a country appears to be less important for obesity levels, for example.

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. What surprised researchers, however, was how greatly this gender step gap varied from country to country with negative consequences for women.

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. As per the research deciphered from the smartphone data cities like NY and San Francisco were pedestrian friendly where people tend to walk more. In fact, the study group form the five countries with the greatest activity inequality were nearly 200 percent more likely to be obese than those from the five countries with the lowest activity inequality.

Using step data captured by smartphones, Stanford researchers have defined a new public health risk they call activity inequality.

The United States was amongst countries with greatest activity inequality. This occurs when large gaps develop inside a country between people who walk a lot and those who walk very little, leading to unhealthy levels of obesity.

Similar to income inequality, the "step-poor" are prone to obesity while the "step-rich" tend toward fitness and health. The research was done on smartphones who have a built-in accelerometer which can record steps that let the researchers use their anonymous data.

The findings leaned most heavily on data from the 46 countries for which Azumio provided at least a thousand anonymized users, enough to form the basis for statistically valid inferences.

"For instance, Sweden had one of the smallest gaps between activity rich and activity poor, and the smallest disparity between male and female steps", said Tim Althoff, a doctoral candidate in computer science and first author on the Nature paper.

Canada fared quite poorly in "activity inequality", ranking in the bottom three with a score that tied us with Egypt and the United States.

The key ingredient of the survey was "activity inequality" which mostly made difference in lifestyle.

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

Interestingly, the researchers found that a country's average step count wasn't the best predictor of that nation's obesity rate.

Of the findings, bioengineering professor Scott Delp, who worked on the study said: "The study is 1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement".

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.