A closer examination of the relationship between children's weight status and the food and physical activity environment

Prev Med. 2013 Sep;57(3):162-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 May 30.


Objectives: Conflicting findings on associations between food and physical activity (PA) environments and children's weight status demand attention in order to inform effective interventions. We assess relationships between the food and PA environments in inner-city neighborhoods and children's weight status and address sources of conflicting results of prior research.

Methods: Weight status of children ages 3-18 was assessed using parent-measured heights and weights. Data were collected from 702 children living in four low-income cities in New Jersey between 2009 and 2010. Proximity of a child's residence to a variety of food and PA outlets was measured in multiple ways using geo-coded data. Multivariate analyses assessed the association between measures of proximity and weight status.

Results: Significant associations were observed between children's weight status and proximity to convenience stores in the 1/4 mile radius (OR = 1.9) and with presence of a large park in the 1/2 mile radius (OR = 0.41). No associations were observed for other types of food and PA outlets.

Conclusions: Specific aspects of the food and PA environments are predictors of overweight and obese status among children, but the relationships and their detection are dependent upon aspects of the geospatial landscape of each community.

Keywords: Body mass index; Childhood obesity; Food environment; Food outlets; Geo-spatial measures of proximity; Overweight; Physical activity environment; Physical activity outlets; Weight outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • New Jersey
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Health*
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult