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Nearby exercise facilities boost health

Wednesday December 13th, 2017

Simply living close to facilities for exercise has health benefits – by encouraging fitness, researchers report today.

Ms Kate Mason at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, and colleagues investigated whether the built environment is linked to the development of obesity and related conditions.

They used health and geographical information on over 400,000 adults with details stored in the UK Biobank.

This showed that a higher number of physical activity facilities such as gyms and playing fields within a kilometre of home is linked to a smaller waist circumference, lower body mass index, and lower body fat percentage.

People with at least six facilities close to home had 1.22cm smaller waist circumference than those with no nearby facilities, a 0.57 kg per metre squared body mass index, and a 0.81 percentage points lower body fat.

The health benefit of living further from fast-food outlets was not clear.

In the Lancet Public Health today (13 December) the authors write: "This study shows strong associations between high densities of physical activity facilities and lower adiposity for adults in mid-life. We observed weaker associations for access to fast food, but these are likely to be underestimated owing to limitations of the food environment measure."

The researchers urge policy makers to consider interventions aimed at tackling the obesogenic built environment.

Ms Mason commented: "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.

"These aspects are often unequally distributed and might partly explain persistent social and geographical inequalities in obesity."

Mason, K. et al. Associations between fast food and physical activity environments and adiposity in mid-life: cross-sectional, observational evidence from UK Biobank. The Lancet Public Health 12 December 2017; doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30212-8 [abstract]

Tags: Fitness | UK News

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