If you’re visiting Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, you may have noticed the pace at which people walk is distinctly slow. Perhaps there’s good reason for this. In the punishing humidity, it makes sense not to strain too hard. Slowing down your pace of walking can help conserve energy; in theory, at least. A counter-argument to this theory is that it would actually make more sense to walk faster. The faster you walk, the quicker you get inside to an air-conditioned building.
Why, then, have Indonesians been described as the laziest walkers in the world according to a Stanford University research project? Could it be convenience? With apps such as Grab and Gojek giving people a cheap, quick and easy way to get from A to B, there’s little incentive to walk. Indonesia isn’t alone when it comes to the low number of steps its people take. Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and India are similarly low in their step counts, with people walking less than 3,900 steps per day.
The convenience argument seems more plausible when you bring Singapore into the picture. Singapore has a similar climate to Jakarta and Malaysia, but its walkers, according to a 2007 study (things may have changed since then!), are the fastest in the world. At the time of the study, the fastest walkers hailed from Singapore, Copenhagen (Denmark), Madrid (Spain), Guangzhou (China) and Dublin (Ireland).
It’s been a while since 2007 and it’s uncertain whether Singapore continues to hold the top spot. Grab has penetrated the Singaporean market, however the cost-effective convenience of GrabBike has yet to be introduced. And maybe that’s a good thing, with evidence suggesting faster walkers are smarter and more resistant to ageing than their slower-paced counterparts.