Activity Inequality

Large-scale physical activity data reveal
worldwide activity inequality.

Activity Inequality Project

Smartphone data from over 68 million days of activity by 717,527 individuals across 111 countries reveal variability in physical activity across the world.

The variance of activity around the population mode differs between countries. Curves show distribution of steps across the population relative to the population mode. In Japan, the activity of 76% of the population falls within 50% of the mode (i.e., between white dashed lines), whereas in Saudi Arabia this fraction is only 62%. The United Kingdom and United States lie between these two extremes for average activity level and variance.

Activity inequality predicts obesity. Individuals in the five countries with highest activity inequality are 196% more likely to be obese than individuals from the 5 countries with lowest activity inequality.

Aspects of the built environment, such as walkability, may mitigate activity inequality. Higher walkability scores are associated with lower activity inequality based on data from 69 United States cities.


Research paper in Nature (547.7663)
Paper PDF
Paper Supplementary Information

Abstract: Understanding the basic principles that govern physical activity is needed to curb the global pandemic of physical inactivity and the 5.3 million deaths per year associated with inactivity. Our knowledge, however, remains limited owing to the lack of large-scale measurements of physical activity patterns across free-living populations worldwide. Here, we leverage the wide usage of smartphones with built-in accelerometry to measure physical activity at planetary scale. We study a dataset consisting of 68 million days of physical activity for 717,527 people, giving us a window into activity in 111 countries across the globe. We find inequality in how activity is distributed within countries and that this inequality is a better predictor of obesity prevalence in the population than average activity volume. Reduced activity in females contributes to a large portion of the observed activity inequality. Aspects of the built environment, such as the walkability of a city, were associated with less gender gap in activity and activity inequality. In more walkable cities, activity is greater throughout the day and throughout the week, across age, gender, and body mass index (BMI) groups, with the greatest increases in activity for females. Our findings have implications for global public health policy and urban planning and highlight the role of activity inequality and the built environment for improving physical activity and health.


We analyzed 68 million days of physical activity based on smartphone measurements from 717,527 people in 111 countries across the globe.

Our data and code are available at Github.

Countries by Activity Inequality

We rank countries by activity inequality where lower values correspond to a more equal distribution of physical activity (using the Gini coefficient ranging from 0 to 1).

The following table and more data are also available here.

Rank Country Activity Inequality
1 Hong Kong 22.2
2 China 24.5
3 Sweden 24.6
4 South Korea 24.7
5 Czech Republic 24.8
6 Japan 24.8
7 Singapore 24.9
8 Norway 25.2
9 Ukraine 25.2
10 Netherlands 26.1
11 Spain 26.1
12 Taiwan 26.2
13 Denmark 26.2
14 Russia 26.2
15 Chile 26.3
16 Switzerland 26.3
17 Turkey 26.4
18 Finland 26.6
19 Germany 26.6
20 France 26.8
21 Poland 26.9
22 Brazil 27.2
23 Israel 27.2
24 Thailand 27.2
25 Hungary 27.3
26 Italy 27.5
27 Portugal 27.6
28 Belgium 27.6
29 Mexico 27.9
30 United Arab Emirates 28.1
31 Indonesia 28.3
32 Romania 28.3
33 South Africa 28.4
34 Ireland 28.5
35 Malaysia 28.8
36 United Kingdom 28.8
37 Qatar 29.1
38 India 29.3
39 Greece 29.5
40 Philippines 29.8
41 New Zealand 30.1
42 United States 30.3
43 Egypt 30.3
44 Canada 30.3
45 Australia 30.4
46 Saudi Arabia 32.5



Press information:
Stanford Press Release
NIH Press Release
HiRes images

Press kit available upon request.
Direct inquiries to Tim Althoff.