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Location Is Everything When It Comes to BMI

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The results are in: According to a new study, people who live within close proximity to a gym or activity center weigh less than those who don’t. Access to fast-food restaurants may also affect weight, say the study’s authors.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in England looked at BMI records of more than 400,000 people and their proximity to activity centers and fast-food outlets. According to the study’s calculations, subjects who lived near at least six fitness facilities had a smaller waistline (-1.22 centimeters), a lower BMI (-0.57 kg/m2) and less body fat (-0.81 percentage points) than those who did not live near a gym. Subjects who lived at least 2,000 meters away from a fast-food restaurant had a smaller waistline (-0.26 cm) than those living within 500 meters of one.

In light of these findings, the authors suggested that city planners pay more attention to access. “Our findings from a large and geographically diverse sample of adults in mid-life add support to the hypothesis that increasing access to physical activity facilities and, possibly, reducing access to fast food close to residential areas [may potentially] reduce the prevalence of obesity and overweight . . . This approach might be more effective for some groups than for others,” the authors said.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor, and IDEA's director of event programming.

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