Researchers have found that Hong Kong is the least lazy place in the world, according to data collected from people’s smartphones.

The Stanford University study analysed data collected from more than 700,000 people from 111 countries using a mobile app designed to measure users’ physical activity. Hong Kong subjects were found to have taken an average of 6,880 steps a day, out of 46 countries with more than a thousand research subjects in the data set.

China ranked second, with participants taking an average of 6,189 steps a day. Indonesia came last, with a daily average of 3513 steps.

Map showing the mean number of steps taken by people in different countries. Photo: Activity Inequality Project/Tim Althoff

The report was published online by the science journal Nature on Monday. Its stated aim was to understand people’s lifestyle habits in order to “curb the global pandemic of physical inactivity.”

The report cited a study published by Lancet in 2012, which identified inactivity as the cause of an estimated 5.3 million deaths worldwide in 2008. Physical inactivity is linked to increased rates of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancers, as well as decreased life expectancy.

The Stanford report compared the distribution of physical activity across age, gender, and body mass index (BMI) groups within individual countries. It found that activity inequality was a better predictor of obesity than the mean number of steps taken by the aggregate population.

Activity inequality increases with the relative activity gender gap. Photo: Activity Inequality Project/Tim Althoff.

Activity inequality refers to the difference in the mean number of steps taken by various population groups. Different countries’ overall activity inequality was computed using the Gini coefficient – a commonly used measure of inequality. According to two researchers, computer scientist Jure Leskovec and bioengineer Scott Delp, the aim of using this metric was to evoke the idea of income 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,” Delp told Stanford News.

See also: Slow moving on making Hong Kong the world’s walkable city – report

Hong Kong had the lowest activity inequality among the countries surveyed. It also had the third smallest fraction of obese individuals in the world, after China and Japan.

Pedestrians walking in Tsim Sha Tsui. File photo: Wikicommons/Ralf Roletschek.

The study also found that a city’s walkability was associated with a smaller gender gap in activity as well as lower activity inequality. Researchers expressed hope that the findings will be used to support global public health policy and urban planning.

Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.