With an entire world of countries, each with a unique climate, diet and population, it was never going to be easy to get an accurate picture of ‘the fittest nations in the world’. Using criteria such as life expectancy, government assistance programs for healthy eating or exercise, and overall public health records, one could report any number of countries as being the fittest. In order to get what we think is the most accurate assessment, we’ve looked at a couple of major sources of data, cross-referenced them, and noted which countries come out on top most frequently.
The sources of data we used are:
- CIA World Factbook, life expectancy chart
- Our World In Data, obesity by country
- OECD, healthcare spending per capita
- Stanford University News, daily steps taken per country
Through browsing this list we’ve been able to come up with 5 countries that are represented the best through the data, which should hopefully give an interesting insight into the nations that might possibly have the ‘fittest’ population overall. Again, it is extremely difficult to declare one ‘winner’, so we’ve endeavoured to create a set of results that take the statistics into account as well as other factors that can’t be necessarily considered in the numbers. Also, we’ve decided to only scrutinize countries with a large population and a diverse selection of urban, suburban, rural and small-town environments – excluding countries such as small protectorates, city-states or micro kingdoms in order to balance the results.
Life Expectancy: Ranks #2
Healthcare spending: Ranks #14
Daily Steps: 5500+
Japan’s prevalence on the data we looked at was notable, especially on the life expectancy chart where it ranks only second to the small and wealthy state of Monaco. The Japanese diet is notoriously low in saturated fat, high in seafood and vegetables, and Japanese life is very focused on walking and using public transport even in some of the nation’s most packed urban centres. All of this is balanced with a fairly low healthcare spending per head, which may suggest a lack of reliance due to a healthy population or may also be due to the Japanese healthcare system – where a patient covers 30% of the costs of healthcare while the government picks up the remaining 70%.
Life Expectancy: Ranks #11
Healthcare Spending: Ranks #22
Daily Steps: 5500
In South Korea, we noticed a similar set of conditions to Japan, although not so for life expectancy. The reason we’ve included South Korea is due to their arguably very low obesity index compared to government health care spending, which in South Korea is a universal free system similar to the NHS in the UK. This system is consistently ranked as one of the most efficient healthcare services in the world, and ranked by our source the OECD as being the most accessible on the planet, despite the low cost per capita. Combined with a healthy diet and efficient active lifestyles supported by many social and government healthcare programs, plus a proactive approach to cutting down tobacco usage, South Korea is an extremely fit and healthy nation.
Life Expectancy: Ranks #10
Healthcare Spending: Ranks #2
Daily Steps: 5000+
Including the Swiss in a study like this is an obvious choice – the country’s extremely hi-tech healthcare system ranks only below the United States in terms of spending per head (the US system creates its own reasons for being so vastly expensive). Switzerland also has a fairly low rate of obesity and high step count for Europe, which is notable given the prevalence for obesity among Europeans (the UK measures in at around 27%). In some areas, the Swiss government leads the way in terms of public health issues, with initiatives such as decriminalising drug use and curbing public tobacco usage amongst its citizens.
Life Expectancy: Ranks #18
Healthcare Spending: Ranks #4
Daily Steps: 5000+
When it comes to fitness and health ranking studies, Norway always seems to pop up in high places, not just on official statistics but in a lot of other surveys. Typical Norwegian cuisine is locally prepared from fresh ingredients and high in natural fats and protein, as well as often being lower in carbs. People there love to rise early and eat large, enjoying well-balanced breakfasts of cold meats, wholemeal bread, dried fruits and dairy products before starting their day. The air there is clean and people exercise and love the great outdoors at an above average rate compared to the rest of Europe, only really rivalled by Sweden, which is also one of the countries we’ve highlighted. Norway’s healthcare system is also notably high-performance and backed by a lot of government funding.
Life Expectancy: Ranks #16
Healthcare Spending: Ranks #6
Daily steps: 5500+
Another Scandinavian country, Sweden scores a bit better than Norway on the obesity scale. People there live slightly longer, and the country spends a little less on healthcare. Sweden also has a large proportion of elderly people, with one in 5 residents being over 65 years of age. Elderly care is considered much more important in Scandinavian countries and as a result, there are often a lot of schemes to help elderly people to get out of the house and to stay healthy, whilst in other countries we tend to look to nursing homes to look after the elderly later in their life. The Swedish have an interesting attitude to healthcare – they culturally are much more resistant to popping pills and much more likely to self-prescribe fresh air and exercise when feeling under the weather. Combined with a similarly low-tech diet and a proactive approach to healthy living, Swedes are amongst the healthiest people in the world.
So to conclude…
The lessons we learn from studying the diet and exercise habits of people around the world empirically offer a unified message – healthy diets of fresh foods, regular exercise inside or outside the gym, and a good amount of time spent in the open air are all healthy in the long run. Keeping things simple, natural and communal are all great steps to take towards health and fitness. Loving your body and your community all work to your advantage, in their own ways.
To refer to the Scandinavian idea of Lagom (just the right amount), perhaps a little bit of everything isn’t so much of a bad thing. Healthy lifestyle decisions, as well as the occasional moderated indulgence, all work together for a happier you – so stay working out, enjoy roaming around, and take your time off to the best places you can find.
Marketing Manager – Gym Marine Yachts & Interiors.
Marketing for Gym Marine is a total joy. My days are spent investigating new exciting gym equipment, catching up with our manufacturers and constantly finding new ways to reach you, our fantastic customers. If you have any queries or want to talk all things marketing, drop me a line!