People living within a kilometre of physical activity facilities, such as gyms, swimming pools and playing fields, have smaller waist circumferences, a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower body fat percentages than people who have no nearby exercise facilities, according to an observational study published in The Lancet Public Health journal on 12 December 2017.
Reducing fast-food outlets decreases obesity
The findings suggest that increasing access to physical activity facilities, and reducing access to fast-food shops in residential areas may have the potential to reduce obesity, but may be more effective for some groups of people than others.
Tackling unhealthy built environments
“Around the world, urbanisation is recognised as a key driver of obesity, and certain features of neighbourhoods are likely to add to this, including a prevalence of fast food outlets and whether we have access to physical activity facilities,” says lead author Kate Mason, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK.
The authors note that exposure to physical activity facilities and fast-food outlets could be altered by the use of planning regulations and interventions.
Cities need to be designed and planned for healthy lifestyle
Kate Mason continues: “Designing and planning cities in a way that better facilitates healthy lifestyles may be beneficial and should be considered as part of wider obesity prevention programmes.
“This could be improved by restricting the number of new fast food outlets in a neighbourhood and how close they can be to people’s homes, incentivising operators of physical activity facilities to open in residential areas with few facilities, or funding local authorities to provide such facilities,” concludes Kate Mason.
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