10,000 steps a day? Largest fitness app study reveals why the US is fatter than Mexico

Americans and Mexicans may be walking the same average step count, but the unequal distribution between active and sedentary people in the US has led to higher obesity rates

Americans and Mexicans may be walking the same average step count, but the unequal distribution between active and sedentary people in the US has led to higher obesity rates


You must walk at least 10,000 steps a day to be in good health. Ever heard of that mantra? It might not be the most accurate way to measure activity, but the "10,000 steps" theory is built into the vast majority of fitness apps that use our smartphones as pedometers. Various researchers are now looking into the statement, and coming up with numbers smaller or larger, yet their overarching conclusion is that actually we have never had the ability to gain so much insight into people's moving habits as with the proliferation of iOS and Android phones, or wearables that have activity trackers built in.

Enter the largest such study of this kind that was just released in the wild by Stanford researchers. It uses donated data from the Argus app to analyze the activity habits of no less than 717,527 people from 111 countries. That's a huge dataset, impossible to collect prior to phone-based health apps, and it was used to determine activity distribution by country, amount of movement, and body mass index, as all other data was anonymized by the donor app.

Countries with largest activity gap are two times more obese than those with even distribution

Countries with largest activity gap are two times more obese than those with even distribution

The study crunchers found out some interesting data - if you look at the map above, for instance, both US and Mexico participants took a similar number of steps per day on average, yet the body mass index of the Americans is higher than of the Mexicans, which are no lean meat to begin with. To explain this phenomenon, the researchers came up with what they dubbed "activity inequality." 

It turns out that there is a big difference in daily step count between the most active and the most sedentary people in the US. That activity gap led to the higher average obesity rates that was gleaned from the US data, so it looks like everyone walking 4500 steps a day (the average for both US and Mexico), is more important than a few walking 10,000+ steps, and the other few barely moving throughout the day, as is the case in the US. Thanks, smartphones, for aiding the largest activity study of this kind to reconfirm again how fat we are. Oh, and just look at the Chinese - now that's a nation on the move!

source: Stanford

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30 Comments

1. dubaiboy78

Posts: 436; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

I love phonearena! Love u guys!!!

26. audibot

Posts: 585; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

man this is fake as bleep. my fat ass walks over 12000 steps just for work and then jog 4.5 miles after i get home today alone its over 22000 steps and i never lose weight and thats with a 1800 cal diet

30. Anchor

Posts: 160; Member since: Jun 16, 2017

Do you use the Argus fitness App? If no, then it's as real as the app suggests

2. Furbal unregistered

Most of us work at a desk, so makes sense.

4. djcody

Posts: 202; Member since: Apr 17, 2013

How about what you eat and how much?? I know a lot of people working behind the desk none with obese.

5. Furbal unregistered

Well eating correctly will obviously correct the issue. We've got a few in our office, a few slightly over weight, then the rest are thin or athletic

20. darkkjedii

Posts: 30699; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I drive for Clark County Transit, but I get up at 2am, run 3 miles, then hit the weights when I get off. No excuses, health is wealth.

31. Anchor

Posts: 160; Member since: Jun 16, 2017

You wake up by 2am? How many hours a day do u sleep then

3. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 988; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

I have a feeling that U.S. being home to fast food and Mexico being an hotter nation help separate us on a physicality scale as well

7. Landon

Posts: 1227; Member since: May 07, 2015

That and I think the food industry here in America drastically effects our obesity rates compared to Mexico.

27. audibot

Posts: 585; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

its simple before coming to america i was fit but the food in America is so unhealthy the preservatives are insane because the country is so big product has to be able to survive the trip then shelf life than home shelf then cooked. look at a can of soup then look at the lite version the lite soup has 4 to 500 mg sodium more than regular soup

6. 87186

Posts: 312; Member since: Aug 01, 2014

diet. it's simple. physical activity helps, but diet is so so important. sadly, most americans love fast food, processed foods, and large portions

9. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Just that. Diet is the main factor behind the obesity and body fitness difference between the US and Mexico... not the amount of steps they make on average.

10. Landon

Posts: 1227; Member since: May 07, 2015

I agree with your statement, but it's a lot simpler for us who have good genes. While we can eat a tub of ice cream and not gain an ounce, others will balloon up. Fortunately not a single member of my family are obese but for other families, it's very common for the entire family to be overweight and have to work extremely hard not to be obese.

11. southernzombie

Posts: 349; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

Because a 2 liter soda costs $0.99 and a 20oz Bottle of water cost $1.89. The logic there is astoundingly backwards.

15. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1275; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Even more so when you consider that water used in soda is often times more pure than regular purified water due to taste control.

25. southernzombie

Posts: 349; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

along that same vein a double cheeseburger is $2 while a salad is $7

28. audibot

Posts: 585; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

thats why i do distilled its the best 3 gallons last me about 5 days to a week

8. 47AlphaTango

Posts: 709; Member since: Sep 27, 2015

And US people will deny this news and will accuse Daniel P. For posting this article. This is to show why most american people tend to drive cars on neighboring streets.

12. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1507; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

Many Americans don't even know how to cook anymore, it's pathetic, and now many rely on unhealthy eating habits to remain fed. Parents should teach their children to cook, but many younger parents themselves can't, so children grow up on processed easy to prepare meals and fast food to repeat the cycle. It's DIET and exercise that matters.

13. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1507; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

Also this data isn't that accurate, we don't have our phones on us 24/7 to measure. I've been using S Health for a few years and I used a smart watch for about a year, I kept the watch on almost 24/7 and I tend to leave my phone on a desk/table as I go about my day at home or work. S Health tracked far more steps when I used the watch.

16. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1275; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Many or most if not all watches count steps based on motion. Sit down and wave your hands with the watch like you would if you were at a desk working. It will probably think that you've taken several steps.

14. BGChicago

Posts: 217; Member since: Nov 16, 2014

it's not the steps/activity only. SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 30699; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Sugar is very anabolic. If eaten at the right times, it's beneficial, due to it being used for glycogen replenishment. Best to eat it a little before or right after intense exercise. Eaten at the wrong times, it causes a massive insulin spike, that leads to fat gain.

24. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Yeah, but genes matter too.

17. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1275; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Ha ha ha, I was part of that lazy bunch until recently. Past 2 months I've taken to running 6-8 miles 4-5 times a week along with walking 1-3 miles. Also take into account that many Americans eat more than the recommended 2000 calories.

23. darkkjedii

Posts: 30699; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

In just 2 months, you went from lazy to running 6-8 miles 4-5 a week? Hmmmmmm...

18. rawlgnd19

Posts: 25; Member since: Sep 08, 2011

It can also be do to mexicans having limited access to food while americans don't have this type of issue.

19. Pureviewuser1

Posts: 140; Member since: Mar 28, 2016

And the fact theyre practising climbing walls all day.

22. darkkjedii

Posts: 30699; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I usually get in 15,000 to 16,000 steps a day, and I have a sit down job. I get up and bust my ass, before work, and after. HIIT will metabolize that sugar and fat, and keep you in shape.

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