A new study by Stanford University has confirmed what many experts believe: Americans need to get more active. Scientists at the college looked at the step-counters found in smartphones to track activity level for about 700,000 people in 46 countries, reports BBC. On average, Americans took about 4,774 steps each day. All total, the average was only slightly higher at 4,961 steps.

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According to the news site, the average number of steps actually wasn’t the greatest factor for determining obesity. Instead, they found what’s being called the activity inequality is more important. It’s a little bit like wealth inequality, with the biggest gaps shown between the fittest and laziest. The larger the gap, the more obesity is a problem.

"For instance, Sweden had one of the smallest gaps between activity rich and activity poor... it also had one of the lowest rates of obesity,” Tim Althoff, one of the researchers, told BBC. Althoff and his team found that activity inequality was driven in part by gender differences. In Japan, for example, men and women had similar activity levels. The country also boasts low obesity and inequality. However, countries high in inequality, like the United States and Saudi Arabia, women spend less time doing physical activity.

"When activity inequality is greatest, women's activity is reduced much more dramatically than men's activity, and thus the negative connections to obesity can affect women more greatly,” Jure Leskovec, co study-author said to the news organization.

According to the team, this is the largest study on physical activity. “The study is 1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement,” Althoff said. "This opens the door to new ways of doing science at a much larger scale than we have been able to do before."

Althoff believes the research can be used to help communities get moving and create towns that are more walkable. The study used anonymous data from more than 700,000 people on the Argus activity app.

Harvard’s school of public health writes that energy imbalance greatly causes obesity as people eat too many calories but burn very little. Of course, a variety of factors, like age and genes plays a role, but exercise is one major way to reduce weight issues. “Keeping active can help people stay at a healthy weight or lose weight. It can also lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and certain cancers, as well as reduce stress and boost mood. Inactive (sedentary) lifestyles do just the opposite,” the university writes on their website. Healthy adults are advised to get about two and a half hours of moderate activity each week, but the university notes that recent studies indicate this may not be enough.

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While fitting in extra time at the gym can be difficult, there are many easy ways to get in some additional activity. Climbing the stairs, taking plank breaks at work or doing exercises in front of the TV are easy ways to sneak in some fitness.

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