Living standards determine population’s physical activity (PA); however, more women are systemically insufficiently active, suggesting social gender inequality factors. Thus, we assessed the association between gender inequality, PA differences between genders, and total PA.
We used three independent cross-sectional databases at country-level: PA prevalence (i.e., Active Lifestyle) from the World Health Organization with 1.9 million individuals from 168 countries; daily steps (smartphone registers) of 693 806 people from 46 countries and sport participation in the 2016 Summer Olympics with 11 191 athletes. Gender Inequality Index was used to evaluate aspects surrounding gender equality controlling for overall economic and health status.
Higher gender inequality was associated with gender differences in PA (Active Lifestyle, 0.402, P < 0.001; Steps, 0.542, P < 0.001; Olympic participation, 0.346, P = 0.001). Likewise, lower gender inequality was associated with increased women activity (Active Lifestyle, −0.838, P < 0.001; Steps, −0.81, P < 0.001; Olympic participation, −0.577, P < 0.001), and men activity (Active Lifestyle, −0.453, P < 0.001; Steps, −0.461, P = 0.002).
Lower women PA levels could be influenced by gender inequality. Public health policies aimed to improve women living conditions which may promote their participation in PA and sport.