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Prev Med. 2005 Jun;40(6):831-41.

Examining the relationships among built environment, physical activity, and body mass index in El Paso, TX.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968, USA.



The current study examined the relationships among built environment, physical activity, and body mass index (BMI) in a primarily Hispanic border community in El Paso, TX.


Data from a 2001 community-wide health survey were matched to environmental data using geocoding techniques in ARC VIEW software. A total of 996 adults were surveyed by phone and 452 were successfully geocoded.


The sample was 71% female, 79% Hispanic, 42 +/- 17 years old, moderately acculturated, and had socioeconomic status (SES) levels of semi-skilled workers. Increasing BMI was related to less moderate intensity physical activity (P = 0.05), higher SES (P = 0.0003), worse overall health (P = 0.0004), and living in areas with greater land-use mix (less residential; P = 0.03). The relationship between overall health and BMI was in part mediated by higher numbers of barriers to physical activity in those with poor health, which lead to a decrease in moderate physical activity. These variables explained 20% of the variance in BMI.


This is one of the first studies to find a positive relationship between land-use mix and BMI in a predominantly Hispanic, low-income community. The positive association between BMI and land-use mix may be due to the inclusion of individual SES as a controlling variable in the analyses, suggesting that SES may have a differential effect on how the built environment influences BMI in low- to moderate-income minority communities.

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