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Amish adults take twice as many steps as Danes

Thursday 04 Feb 16

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Jeppe Matthiessen
Senior adviser
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 44
Danish adults take more steps than Americans but less than Australians – and considerably less than Amish adults in Canada. This is one of the findings from a comparison study of different populations’ level of physical activity carried out by the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark.

One in three Danish adults takes fewer steps than the recommended 7,500 steps a day and as such are classified as physically inactive according to data from the Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity.

"If you view the level of physical activity in Amish adults as how the lifestyle was 150 years ago and the level of physical activity in Danish adults as how the lifestyle is in the 21st century, it appears that physical activity has almost halved over the past 150 years."

A comparison of the level of physical activity in different populations shows that Danish adults are more physically active than Finns, Americans and the Japanese, as active as Belgians, but less active than Australians. Americans and Japanese are classified as low active, while Danes, Finns and Belgians are somewhat active and Australians are somewhat active to active.

Pedometers were used to measure the level of physical activity in all the studies.

Daily steps are halved over the last 150 years

The highest number of daily steps in recent times is measured among Amish adults in Canada, who mostly live without the use of modern technology. Amish adults take 16,000 steps a day on average - almost twice as many as Danish adults.

"If you view the level of physical activity in Amish adults as how the lifestyle was 150 years ago and the level of physical activity in Danish adults as how the lifestyle is in the 21st century, it appears that physical activity has almost halved over the past 150 years," senior adviser Jeppe Matthiessen from the National Food Institute says.

High costs associated with physical inactivity

According to the World Health Organization the costs associated with physical inactivity amount to between 1,000-2,000 Danish Kroner per year for every citizen in Europe in terms of increased health care costs and production losses due to sick leave and premature death.

If these numbers are applied to Denmark, the economic costs of physical inactivity amount to between 5.7 and 11.4 billion Danish Kroner annually.

Read more

Read more about the study in a scientific article in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health: Reduction in pedometer-determined physical activity in the adult Danish population from 2007 to 2012.

The present study uses data from the Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity, which is the only population survey where objectively measured data on physical activity are collected from a large representative sample from all areas of Denmark.

Pedometer data and self-reported data on cycling are collected in the survey. 160 steps are added for every minute of cycling. Data from a total of 1,408 Danish adults aged 18 to 75 years are included in the analysis in 2011-2012.