Americans Walking Less Than Those in Other Countries - NYTimes.com
The Pedometer Test: Americans Take Fewer StepsBy TARA PARKER-POPE
Americans are thousands of steps behind other countries when it comes to daily physical activity, according to new research that used pedometers to measure movement.
The study tracked the steps of 1,136 adults around the United States who wore pedometers for two days in 2003. The results were compared to similar pedometer studies in Switzerland, Australia and Japan. The data collected showed that Americans, on average, took 5,117 steps a day, far short of the averages in western Australia (9,695 steps), Switzerland (9,650 steps) and Japan (7,168 steps). The findings were published in the October issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The fitness gap detected by the pedometer studies is equal to about 30 to 40 minutes of walking each day. One mile of walking covers about 2,000 steps, researchers say. The health community typically urges people to take at least 10,000 steps a day to maintain good health, which is equal to about five miles of walking.
Although there are notable differences in the methods used to study daily steps in each country, the findings still strongly suggest that Americans are moving much less than people in other developed countries.
"It did surprise me that Americans were that sedentary," said the lead author, David R. Bassett Jr., a professor in the department of kinesiology, recreation and sport studies at the University of Tennessee. "A person is typically considered sedentary if they take less than 5,000 steps per day."
The study also showed that American men, with an average daily step count of 5,340, are moving more than women, who averaged only 4,912 steps a day.
Being single was associated with taking more steps. Single people averaged 6,076 daily steps, compared with 4,793 steps for married people. Widowed participant moved the least, averaging 3,394 daily steps.
An earlier study in 2004 used pedometers to study movement among adults in Amish farming communities. That study showed that Amish men took, on average, more than 18,000 steps a day, and Amish women averaged more than 14,000 steps a day.
"These latest values are about one-third of what Amish people take in farming communities," Dr. Bassett said. "It really does suggest to us that there's been a tremendous decline in the last century and a half in the amount of walking people do."
Notably, the countries that reported high average daily steps also have lower obesity rates, ranging from 3 percent to 16 percent. By comparison, about 34 percent of adults in the United States are obese.
If you are shopping for a pedometer, you may want to consider buying one of the brands that are widely used in pedometer research and have been tested for reliability. They include the Accusplit AE120 and the Yamax Digiwalker SW-200.
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