Physical Activity and Food Environments

Solutions to the Obesity Epidemic

This article provides an update on the body of research on physical activity and food environments. The authors present results from recent studies and review and discuss current promising innovations and policies.

Key Findings:

  • Studies have consistently shown that obesity and physical activity levels are linked with attributes of food and built environments. People living in walkable neighborhoods with access to recreational facilities are less likely to be overweight or obese. Residents of communities with better access to healthy foods are more likely to have healthy diets than residents with poor access to healthy foods.
  • Research also has documented disparities in food and built environments and policies in disadvantaged, low-income, and racial minority communities.

Evidence from evaluations of environmental changes, prospective research, and multilevel studies is only beginning to emerge.

This article is part of a special issue on obesity in the March 2009 edition of The Milbank Quarterly available free of charge throughout 2009 at Wiley-Blackwell.