In almost every country in the world, women walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men, according to a recent Stanford study which analysed the smartphone data of 717,527 people worldwide over 68 million days of activity.
While media coverage focused on the overall results (generating headlines such as Do YOU live in the world’s laziest country?), the study shed new light on an important health inequality issue. The researchers found that high “activity inequality” – where a country has a wide gap between those who walk a lot and those who walk very little – was a strong predictor for a nation’s obesity levels among the 47 countries studied.
Furthermore, the “gender step gap” between men and women was typically widest in high-obesity countries – putting women at greater risk of exercise-related health problems later in life.
In Sweden, the researchers found virtually no gender gap, with men and women walking roughly the same average number of steps each day. Yet in Qatar, women walked 38% fewer steps a day on average than their male counterparts.