School of Social Sciences Economics Professor co-authors international fitness study

5 April 2018

The University of Southern California (USC) led a recent study using fitness trackers to investigate how physically active people assume themselves to be, versus the reality of how physically active they actually are.

The study which looked at American, UK and Dutch participants was co-authored by Professor James Banks of the University of Manchester amongst others.

The study tracked 540 participants from the US, 748 people from the Netherlands and 254 from England.

Both men and women from age 18 upwards, were surveyed to report their physical activity on a five-point scale, ranging from inactive to very active. They also wore a fitness-tracking device on their wrist (an accelerometer) so their actual physical activity over a seven-day period could be monitored.

The survey responses from the American cohort suggest they view themselves as active as the Dutch or the English. Older people think they are as active as their younger counterparts. In reality, though the results from the fitness tracking device showed the Americans to be much less active than the Europeans and older people to be less active than the younger people.

A comparison of fitness tracker data by age group reveals that people in all three countries are generally less active as they get older. Inactivity did appear more widespread among older Americans than the participants in the UK or Netherlands: 60 percent of Americans were inactive, compared to 42 percent of the Dutch and 32 percent of the English.

Arie Kapteyn the study’s lead author and executive director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences said “Individuals in different age groups simply have different standards of what it means to be physically active. They adjust their standards based on their circumstances, including their age.”

The study was published on April 11 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health

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