Background — Evidence from large, population-based studies about the association between neighbourhood walkability and the prevalence of obesity is limited.
Data and Methods — The study population consisted of 106,337 people aged 20 or older living in urban and suburban Ontario, who participated in the National Population Health Survey and the Canadian Community Health Survey from 1996/1997 to 2008. Based on their postal code, individuals were grouped into one of five walkability categories, ranging from very car-dependent to “Walker’s Paradise,” according to the Street Smart Walk Score®, a composite measure of neighbourhood walkability. Logistic regression models, adjusted for demographic, socioeconomic and lifestyle characteristics, were used to estimate odds ratios relating neighbourhood walkability to overweight/obesity and physical activity.
Results — Compared with residents of “Walker’s Paradise” areas, those in very car-dependent areas had significantly higher odds of being overweight or obese. Despite similar levels of leisure physical activity among residents of all walkability areas, those in “Walker’s Paradise” areas reported more utilitarian walking and weighed, on average, 3.0 kg less than did those in very car-dependent areas.
Interpretation — Living in a low-walkability area is associated with a higher prevalence of overweight/obesity. Neighbourhood walkability is related to the frequency of utilitarian walking.
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