A new study has been released showing New Zealand is one of the world’s laziest countries – and Kiwi women walk significantly less than men.
The Activity Inequality Project by Stanford University charted the average daily steps of countries worldwide by tracking the data from an app on participant’s cellphones, Asumio Argus.
New Zealand is 35th out of 46 countries for laziness, with the average Kiwi walking just 4582 steps daily. Even people from countries such as the United States, often thought of as the unhealthiest country in the world, walk more than New Zealand does.
Americans take 4774 daily steps according to the study, Canadians take 4819, Australians take 4941 and the Brits take 5444. Hong Kong topped the daily step count with 6880.
However, numbers of steps taken is also not the most important factor in predicting a country’s obesity rate. The study suggests the most influential factor is something called ‘activity inequality’. This is the difference between the fittest and the laziest people in a country.
New Zealand again has significant rates of activity inequality. We are in the top six, only beaten by the US, Egypt, Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
Here’s the map based off the data they’ve compiled.
Personally I don’t think we’re lazier than other countries, it’s more that we’ve actively designed our cities as places that make walking for many journeys not practical and/or not enjoyable, something backed up by the study.
One way to decrease a country’s activity inequality is to get more women walking. And the key to that, the study suggests, is to make cities more walkable. Research from a cross section of American cities found that when a city is made more walkable, women under 50 are the most likely group to increase their steps.
This is a graph from their website showing the active inequality compared to the walkablity of cities.
As I said, New Zealand cities often treat pedestrians very poorly. Those on foot are often faced with hostile environments including long wait times at intersections, low levels of priority – like when crossing side streets, poor amenity – such as being right next to fast flowing traffic, and are often with general disdain from drivers – and transport agencies.
One classic example is absurd signs like below where on a back street, on the main access way between a major centre and a park, playground and beach, the flow of vehicles was considered more important. Luckily this particularly crossing is being/has been changed but there are many other examples of signs like this all-around Auckland and New Zealand.
Of course, it’s not just how we’ve designed our streets but also how we’ve designed our cities. For many our spread-out suburbs have resulted in walking simply not being a viable option even if they wanted to walk.
Making our cities more walkable (and bikeable), both from a transport and land use perspective, would help make us healthier. And by potentially taking a lot of local trips off roads it also helps to address many of our transport problems.