Do you live in the world's laziest country?


The National Institutes of Health launched a Big Data to Knowledge Initiative back in 2013, which is a trans-NIH program with funding from all 27 institutes and centers. As per the research deciphered from the smartphone data cities like NY and San Francisco were pedestrian friendly where people tend to walk more.

For example, they rated 69 United States cities for how easy they were to get about on foot.

To figure this out, the researchers collected anonymised health data tracked by the free Azumio Argus activity monitor app.

The Stanford University analysis of 68 million days' worth of minute-by-minute data showed the average number of daily steps was 4,961.

A new study conducted by Stanford University researchers using smartphone data has suggested that people in China are among those who move the most while physical activity is low in the United States and Canada.

"This opens the door to new ways of doing science at a much larger scale", Delp said.

The researchers, led by computer scientist Jure Leskovec and bioengineer Scott Delp, dubbed this phenomenon "activity inequality" to evoke the well-established concept of income inequality. The hope was that understanding activity distribution would provide crucial insights into the health diversity of a country. Americans averaged 4,774 steps per day-below the worldwide average of 4,961 steps per day and good enough for 30th out of 46 countries.

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In countries like Japan - with low obesity and low inequality - men and women exercised to similar degrees.

Some interesting conclusions have emerged from the study.

Tim Althoff, one of the researchers, said: "For instance, Sweden had one of the smallest gaps between activity rich and activity also had one of the lowest rates of obesity". Because Argus app users are likely more health-conscious, their data may not be representative of the average population, Althoff noted. Like wealth inequality is the difference between rich and poor, activity inequality is the difference between a country's most and least active person. What's more, there's a huge gulf in our country among the most active and most inactive.

The researchers wanted to examine the potential impact of the walkability of a city on activity levels.

Whereas you really need a vehicle to get around "low walkability" cities including Houston and Memphis.

The smartphone data showed that cities like NY and San Francisco were pedestrian friendly and had "high walkability". Instead, a factor the researchers called "activity inequality" turned out to be more important. Higher walkability is associated with significantly more daily steps across all age, gender, and body-mass-index categories. The researchers weren't surprised to find that men tended to walk more, on average, than women. Whilst things like user privacy and data governance are hugely important, the promise is clear should these crucial steps be undertaken correctly.

It's a great example of how simple, user generated data can be used to make healthcare smarter and more targeted.