A Movement for a FIT and Healthy America
The Cost of Obesity in the USA in 2013 Keeps Rising




SILVER SPRING, MD – July 26, 2017 – Any country’s national level of physical fitness should not be measured by the number of Olympic medals its athletes have won or by its vast number of athletic facilities.  Instead, the best way to measure overall national physical fitness is to use data from people’s smartphones.  This smartphone data has been used by National Institute of Health-funded researchers at Stanford University to calculate how much walking has been done by people in more than 100 countries.  To be more precise, smartphone data used in this study was far-reaching and thorough:  68 million days of physical activity from more than 700,000 people around the world.

Smartphones are now equipped with tiny accelerometers which can automatically record stepping motions. The users, whose data contributed to this study, subscribed to the Azumio Argus app -- a free application for tracking physical activity. It’s worth noting that almost 75 percent of adults in developed countries and 50 percent of adults in developing economies currently carry a smartphone.

The topic of concern in this Stanford University study was ‘activity inequality,’ which occurs when there’s a large gap between those who walk a great deal and those who don’t walk a great deal.  The researchers discovered that cities and countries with lower rates of ‘activity inequality’ are actually more attractive walking destinations.  And lower rates of ‘activity inequality’ mean lower rates of obesity.

The five countries with the lowest levels of ‘activity inequality’ are (1) Hong Kong; (2) China; (3) Sweden; (4) South Korea; (5) Czech Republic.  The United States ranks 42nd.  Canada ranks 44th.  The country with the highest level of ‘activity inequality’ is Saudi Arabia, which ranks 46th.  Three of the bigger U.S. cities which have the lowest levels of ‘activity inequality’ are New York, NY; Boston, MA; and San Francisco, CA.

The Stanford University researchers concluded that by making improvements in a country’s or a city’s walkability — i.e., by creating an environment that is safe and enjoyable to walk — it can reduce that country’s ‘activity inequality,’ which means a healthier society.

“If you must cross major highways to get from point A to point B in a city, the walkability is low and people rely on cars,” said researcher Scott Delp, Ph D, James H. Clark Professor, Founding Chairman of the Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University.  “In cities like New York and San Francisco, where you can get across town on foot safely, the city has high walkability.” 

“The main finding is that we have to decrease the number of activity poor people,” says Professor Jure Leskovec, Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University.   “Walkability of a city is a good indicator about how pedestrian-friendly a city is and in more walkable cities, people simply walk more.  So, if we make it easy to walk and exercise, then people will do that more.”

There were some interesting findings by the Stanford University research team:

  1. )On a global basis, men walk more than women;
  2. )In countries where the entire population had similar levels of daily walking totals, national levels of obesity were low;
  3. )In cities or areas that have lower walkability scores, women tended to be more physically inactive than men.
  4. )The prevalence for obesity increases faster for females than males as population-wide activity decreases.

Back in 2013, a PHIT America news release reported on the health benefits of brisk walking.  At the time, recent stories by the Daily Mail, Associated Press, USA Today, and BBC News had reported on the astounding health benefits of brisk walking, as little as 150 minutes a week.

Representatives from Harvard University and the U.S. government’s medical research agency analyzed the results of six previous studies into health and lifestyle.  Their findings were eye-opening.  With two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week, such as brisk walking, people were extending their lives by more than seven years, according to the findings of the U.S. study.

The call to action is obvious. 

“The findings indicate that city and national leaders need to invest in infrastructure which will improve the walkability of communities, large and small, throughout both the U.S. and across the world,” says PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh.