When it comes to walking, one study finds that Americans are lagging behind people in other developed countries, and that they have the waistlines to show for it.

“It’s not surprising that Americans walk less than people in other countries, but it was kind of surprising to quantify it and find out how much less they walk. It was literally almost half,” explains lead author David Bassett, PhD, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Bassett and his research team collected data from 1,136 American adults who wore pedometers for two days – from the moment they got up in the morning until they climbed into bed at night. The results were compared with similar step studies done in Australia, Japan and Switzerland.

The results show that, on average, Americans take 5,117 steps a day. Australians nearly double that with 9,695 strides. The Swiss clock about 9,650 daily steps, while the Japanese walk an average of 7,168 steps a day.

“We consider that people who take less than 5,000 steps per day are sedentary so Americans are knocking on the door of being pretty sedentary in their physical activity habits,” Bassett explains. “[Australia and Switzerland] are coming really close to what a lot of people believe, which is 10,000 steps a day is a really good level that indicates an active person.”

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the U.S. has the highest level of obesity among those four countries. Thirty-four percent of Americans are obese, compared to 16 percent in Australia, 8 percent in Switzerland and 3 percent in Japan.

“We think that our study offers some key reasons why the obesity rates are so much higher in the U.S. than other developed countries,” Bassett says. “We believe the additional walking other nations are doing is helping prevent weight gain and keep the obesity rates low.”

Bassett says he hopes Americans also step up their activity level in light of these results. He says a rough rule of thumb is there are 2,000 steps in a mile, so he suggests people at least start with that.