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Am J Prev Med. 2008 Jul;35(1):38-46. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.03.021.

Built environment, adiposity, and physical activity in adults aged 50-75.

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  • 1Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, Oregon 97403, USA.



Few studies have investigated the built environment and its association with health-especially excess adiposity-and physical activity in the immediate pre-Baby Boom/early-Baby Boom generations, soon to be the dominant demographic in the U.S. The purpose of this study was to examine this relationship.


This study used a cross-sectional, multilevel design with neighborhoods as the primary sampling unit (PSU). Residents (N=1221; aged 50-75) were recruited from 120 neighborhoods in Portland OR. The independent variables at the PSU level involved GIS-derived measures of land-use mix, distribution of fast-food outlets, street connectivity, access to public transportation, and green and open spaces. Dependent variables included resident-level measures of excess adiposity (BMI>or=25), three walking activities, and physical activity. Data were collected in 2006-2007 and analyzed in 2007.


Each unit (i.e., 10%) increase in land-use mix was associated with a 25% reduction in the prevalence of overweight/obesity. However, a 1-SD increase in the density of fast-food outlets was associated with a 7% increase in overweight/obesity. Higher mixed-use land was positively associated with all three types of walking activities and the meeting of physical activity recommendations. Neighborhoods with high street connectivity, high density of public transit stations, and green and open spaces were related in varying degrees to walking and the meeting of physical activity recommendations. The analyses adjusted for neighborhood- and resident-level sociodemographic characteristics.


Findings suggest the need for public health and city planning officials to address modifiable neighborhood-level, built-environment characteristics to create more livable residential communities aimed at both addressing factors that may influence unhealthy eating and promoting active, healthy lifestyles in this rapidly growing population.

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