Stanford University published a paper on activity inequality in July 2017—revealing Hong Kong to be one of the most active people in the world.

Using the data collected from the smartphone app, Argus, the research team was able to study the average physical activity of over 700,000 individuals from 111 countries all around the world. By analysing the data from the fitness tracking app, the team obtained over 68 million days’ worth of data to help build a near-accurate picture of a nation’s average physical activity levels.

Statistics revealed that Hong Kong topped the list with an average of 6,880 steps taken per day. Other Asian countries such as China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea achieve comparable results, with an average of more than 5,550 daily steps – all among the top 10 most active nations within the study. Indonesia came in last with an average of 3,513 daily steps.

Activity inequality and its impact on health


Nonetheless, finding out the average physical activity levels of populations around the world was the not the main goal of the study.

Based on the data collected, the team created a graph of activity inequality using the Gini Coefficient (similar to how one would measure income inequality). By taking into account distribution factors such as age, gender and body mass index (BMI), the team was able to create a graph of activity inequality across individual countries. When stacked up amongst one another, the global comparison of activity inequality began to paint a stark picture of the health situation worldwide.

Smartphone data from over 68 million days of activity by 717,527 individuals reveals variability in physical activity across the world. Source: Macmillan Publishers Limited
Smartphone data from over 68 million days of activity by 717,527 individuals reveals variability in physical activity across the world. Source: Macmillan Publishers Limited

The team further compared activity within several groups of the same population, forming an accurate predictor for obesity levels. Countries from the five highest activity inequality were 196% more likely to suffer from obesity compared to the countries from the five lowest activity inequality.

“If you think about some people in a country as ‘activity rich’ and others as ‘activity poor’ – the size of the gap between them is a strong indicator of obesity levels in that society,” explained Scott Delp, a bioengineer and member of the Stanford research team.

By combining new technologies (smartphone applications) with established statistical analysis (Gini Coefficient), the team was able to create a reliable new tool in the fight against the obesity pandemic. With the aid of this new data, the team hopes that activity inequality would be taken into account by global policymakers, particularly when planning new public health policies and urban developments in an effort to improve physical activity and health worldwide.

Activity inequality is associated with obesity and increasing gender gaps in activity. Source: Macmillan Publishers Limited
Activity inequality is associated with obesity and increasing gender gaps in activity. Source: Macmillan Publishers Limited

Making Hong Kong more walkable


Part of the reason Hong Kong has such a high level of physical activity and low level of physical inequality could be attributed to the city’s walkability.

With a high degree of connectivity and accessibility, the streets in Hong Kong are very pedestrian-friendly—allowing many to walk, as a form of daily commute.

Nevertheless, the Hong Kong government has set forth plans to improve this stll with the goal of turning Hong Kong into the world’s most walkable and livable city.

The report “Measuring and Improving Walkability in Hong Kong” has highlighted the various challenges faced towards making Hong Kong more walkable—including the lack of public amenities, few interesting features (shops, restaurants, landscapes) and large crowds. If Hong Kong is able to overcome these challenges, it would bring substantial benefits to the city and its citizens. MIMS

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Sources:
http://activityinequality.stanford.edu/docs/activity-inequality-althoffetal-nature.pdf
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/07/16/hong-kong-least-lazy-place-world-research-paper-finds/
http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2102715/global-study-walking-puts-hong-kong-step-ahead
http://activityinequality.stanford.edu/docs/activity-inequality-althoffetal-nature.pdf
http://activityinequality.stanford.edu/
https://github.com/timalthoff/activityinequality/tree/master/data
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/12/16/slow-moving-making-hong-kong-worlds-walkable-city-report/
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/12/16/slow-moving-making-hong-kong-worlds-walkable-city-report/