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Smartphones Map Out the World’s Laziest & Most Active Countries

From playing music to mapping jogging routes, smartphones are perfectly equipped to handle exercise routines; they can even track how many steps a person takes each day.

And these steps measure just how active, or inactive, the world really is.

Anonymous smartphone data from over 700,000 people has allowed researchers at Stanford University to analyze 68 million days worth of data.

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The result was a compilation of the world’s laziest and most active countries based on the number of steps recorded by participants’ activity monitoring app, Argus.

According to Scott Delp, a bioengineering professor and researcher for the study, the study is “1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement”.

The study also found that a nation's’ average number of steps did not determine rates of obesity.

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Instead, they found that countries with low rates of obesity had citizens that all walked about the same number of steps each day, while countries with high rates of obesity had large gaps between people who walked a lot and those walked very little.

Here are the highlights:

Global Average Number of Daily Steps:4,961


One of the most active countries surveyed, China had an average of 6,189 daily steps. Part of the high activity level is attributed to large, walkable cities in which most of the Chinese population lives.

The United States:

In general, North American coubtries took between 4,500 and 5,000 average daily steps. The US however, fell short of the global average with 4,774 daily steps. In addition, the US was just fourth from the bottom in activity inequality, which corresponds to the country’s high rates of obesity.


As with most of Europe, Sweden took more than the global average number of steps, around 5,500 steps. Although Sweden’s capital of  Stockholm recently became one of Europe’s most walkable cities, what really contributes to it having having one of the world’s lowest obesity rates is the small gaps in activity inequality. In fact, Sweden had one of the smallest gaps in activity inequality out of all the countries surveyed.

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Indonesia and Pakistan:

Although not alone in their low ranks, these two nations were among the most inactive countries in the world, taking less around 3,500 average steps. But these numbers cannot be taken at face value. Because the study relied on smartphone data, countries where most of the population does not own a smartphone are going to have skewed results. As of 2016 only 11% of Pakistan’s population owned a smartphone, and Indonesia was not much better at only 21%; putting each of these countries in the bottom ten for smartphone ownership.

Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia has a slightly better average number of steps than Indonesia and Pakistan, but not by much, coming in at around 4,000 steps. The report also found that women are less active than men, which may reflect strict gender laws that bar womn from walking outside unaccompanied and, until recently, from playing sports.   

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Despite taking nearly the same amount of steps as the US, with 4,692 steps, Mexico  was found to have lower obesity rates than its northern neighbor. The study again attributes this trend to the fact that Mexico had less activity inequality across its population.