Walkable Communities and Adolescent Weight

The odds of student overweight or obesity decreased if they lived in communities with higher walkability index scores according to this Bridging the Gap study.

Physical activity plays an important role in fighting obesity and overweight. The physical environment of communities can significantly impact physical activity and, therefore, health outcomes.

Key Findings:

  • The odds of a student being overweight or obese decreased if they lived in communities with higher walkability index scores.
  • The average prevalence of adolescent overweight and obesity was 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
  • The mean walkability index across communities was 6.38.
  • Key street features associated with reduced prevalence of obesity included increased presence of sidewalks and public transit.

Limitations of this include missing information of student home addresses, no direct evaluation of the association of the walkability index with physical activity, and potential understatement of weight. However, these results can inform policy debates and discussion around government funding of infrastructure in communities.

This study used data from a national sample of public secondary school students who participated in the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey and community-level environment measures developed through the Community Obesity Measures Project (BTG-COMP) conducted between February and August 2010. Cross-sectional, multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted in Spring 2012. Public school students in the 8th-, 10th, and 12th-grade were included in the sample of 154 communities and 11,041 students.

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