EverWalk began as a means of addressing the increasing awareness of the correlation between lack of physical activity and illness: “Sitting is the new smoking.” This connection has become an ever more
urgent field of study around the world — particularly as it relates to an interesting new demographic: activity inequality.
What is activity inequality? The dramatic gaps between active and inactive people within each country — worldwide. A number that has radically shifted during the pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, a 2017 survey connected to smartphone technology examined the exercise and movement data in 111 countries around the world. The country that takes the most steps turned out to be Hong Kong, followed by China. On the other end of the spectrum were Malaysia and Saudia Arabia. In the basement? Indonesia.
Unsurprisingly, a nation’s obesity level is tied to its physical activity level — but more specifically, it is tied
to activity inequality. In fact, inequality is a better predictor of obesity than a country’s average nation step count.
As an example, even though the United States and Mexico have similar daily step averages, the United States has a greater inequality in activity levels, and therefore higher obesity rates than Mexico.
By contrast, Sweden — with one of the lowest gaps between its most and least active citizens —
has one of the world’s lowest obesity rates.
Increasingly, scientists are examining countries’ gap between the ‘activity rich’ vs ‘activity poor’.
The bigger the gap, the higher chance for more obesity.
A Stanford University study of activity inequality revealed more interesting statistics and connections. Most surprising? There is NOT a direct connection between fewer steps and obesity rates in terms of an overall country’s fitness and health. Activity equality is a much more reliable indicator of obesity. AND, here’s another surprise — that inequality is largely driven by differences between men and women.
Bottom line: Countries where women walk significantly less than men tend to be countries with high obesity rates.
In Japan, men and women exhibit similar levels of physical activity. And obesity rates are very low. Why? Because activity inequality is directly linked to women. The less women walk in a country, the higher the obesity rates for that country!
Naturally, there are other factors. Chief among those is physical environment. More walkable cities increase walking rates across all groups — including age, gender, and even BMI. This benefits women especially. for example. more walkable cities increased walking rates across different age, gender, and body mass index groups. Females, in particular, showed significant walking gains if their environments were designed for pedestrians’ needs.
Jakarta, the largest city in Indonesia (the world’s fourth-most-populous nation, which came in the number of walking steps its citizens take, averaging only 3,513 a day) provides a perfect example of urban walking woes. In this metropolitan region of about 30 million, only 7 percent of the capital’s 4,500 miles of road have sidewalks.
There is one other factor, of course — and that is poverty. Uganda is regarded as “the fittest country in the world”. Why? Because most people cannot afford a car and many do not live someplace where they can benefit from public transportation. Thus only 5.5% of all Ugandans do not get enough exercise! The same holds true for Mozambique, Tanzania, Lesotho and Togo. Conversely, people living in Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq live extremely highly sedentary lives.
Overall, about a quarter of the world’s population doesn’t get enough exercise.
Walking, of course, is a crucial pillar to lifelong health. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, diabetes, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer, dementia, and depression, and is crucial to energy balance and weight control, according to the World Health Organization. Whereas, physical inactivity is now the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, according to WHO.
Recommended exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds consists of at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week; strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles; and breaking up long periods of sitting with light activity.
What is moderate aerobic activity?
Walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills, doubles tennis, pushing a lawnmower, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, volleyball, basketball.
What counts as vigorous activity?
Jogging or running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills, singles tennis, football, rugby, skipping rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics, martial arts.
What activities strengthen muscles?
Lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups, heavy gardening, such as digging and shoveling, yoga.
One of the many issues on which the pandemic has shed light is the dangerously high number of obese people in the United States. The average weight gain during the past year in the United States has been 29 pounds.
Among those who reported undesired weight gain, the average gain was 29 pounds. Roughly 50% of those who reported undesired weight gain said they had gained more than 15 pounds, and 10% said they had gained more than 50 pounds.
Now, more than ever, it is important to commit to turning those statistics around. A great way to start is to begin by walking one mile every day. Check out The EverWalk Mile program by clicking the link below. You can download a calendar to cross off your daily mile as well as join our EverWalk Nation app and track your daily mile on our EverWalk/Pacer platform.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE EVERWALK MILE
LEARN MORE ABOUT ACTIVITY INEQUALITY
Check out the full Stanford University Acitivty Inequality Study!