Background: Walkable neighbourhoods promote physical activity and prevent obesity, but there is limited evidence to inform urban planning strategies for public health within the context of rural Japan. This study describes associations between neighbourhood walkability and obesity in Toyama, a regional municipality in Japan.
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis of the Toyama Prefecture National Health Insurance data (n = 3454) in 2016 using Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) and binary logistic regression. Walk Score® was used to estimate neighbourhood walkability.
Results: Residents from highly walkable neighbourhoods generally had lower mean body mass index (BMI), but significant associations between neighbourhood walkability and BMI and prevalence of obesity were only observed in women (adjusted OR: 0.46, 95% CI: 0.26-0.80). Men below 65 years old had higher obesity prevalence (adjusted OR: 1.76, 95% CI: 1.34-2.30). Daily alcohol consumption was associated with lower odds of being obese among men (adjusted OR: 0.72, 95% CI: 0.55-0.95). Hypertension, diabetes mellitus and dyslipidaemia were associated with higher obesity prevalence among residents, regardless of gender.
Conclusions: Walkable environment may improve health outcomes for rural communities in Japan. Further studies are required to create equitable and inclusive living spaces for men and women to access healthier lifestyle choices.
Keywords: built environment; neighbourhood walkability; obesity; rural Japan.
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