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Step counts linked to national obesity rates

Aug. 11, 2017—How much people walk may provide insight into the obesity rates in their country, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

Researchers found that countries where people get about the same number of steps tend to have lower obesity rates than countries where there's a big activity gap between people who walk the most and those who walk the least

Walking to stay thin

Researchers examined activity levels of more than 717,000 men and women from 111 countries. All study participants used a smartphone app that tracked their activity.

The study found that the gap between people who walked a lot and those who didn't walk much was a good indicator of obesity rates in their country. The bigger the gap, the higher the obesity rate.

Sweden had one of the smallest activity gaps. It also had one of the lowest obesity rates. The U.S., on the other hand, had one of the largest activity gaps. It also had high levels of obesity.

Another finding: Cities where it was easiest to walk had the lowest activity gaps.

How much should you walk?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Brisk walking is an example that fits the bill. The key is to get your heart rate up and break a sweat. You should be able to talk but not sing.

If two and a half hours sounds like a lot of walking, never fear. You can break it up into segments as small as 10 minutes. The key is just to get moving.

Want to walk more? Here's how.

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