Associations between access to recreational physical activity facilities and body mass index in Scottish adults

Anne Ellaway, Karen E. Lamb, Neil S. Ferguson, David Ogilvie

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5 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: The aim of this country-wide study was to link individual health and behavioural data with area-level spatial data to examine whether the body mass index (BMI) of adults was associated with access to recreational physical activity (PA) facilities by different modes of transport (bus, car, walking, cycling) and the extent to which any associations were mediated by PA participation. Methods: Data on individual objectively-measured BMI, PA (number of days of (a) ≥20 min of moderate-to-vigorous PA, and (b) ≥15 min of sport or exercise, in previous 4 weeks), and socio-demographic characteristics were obtained from a nationally representative sample of 6365 adults. The number of accessible PA facilities per 1,000 individuals in each small area (data zones) was obtained by mapping a representative list of all fixed PA facilities throughout mainland Scotland. A novel transport network was developed for the whole country, and routes on foot, by bike, by car and by bus from the weighted population centroid of each data zone to each facility were calculated. Separate multilevel models were fitted to examine associations between BMI and each of the 24 measures of accessibility of PA facilities and BMI, adjusting for age, gender, longstanding illness, car availability, social class, dietary quality and urban/rural classification. Results: We found associations (p < 0.05) between BMI and 7 of the 24 accessibility measures, with mean BMI decreasing with increasing accessibility of facilities—for example, an estimated decrease of 0.015 BMI units per additional facility within a 20-min walk (p = 0.02). None of these accessibility measures were found to be associated with PA participation. Conclusions: Our national study has shown that some measures of the accessibility of PA facilities by different modes of transport (particularly by walking and cycling) were associated with BMI; but PA participation, as measured here, did not appear to play a part in this relationship. Understanding the multi-factorial environmental influences upon obesity is key to developing effective interventions to reduce it.
Original languageEnglish
Article number756
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2016


  • obesity
  • physical activity facilities
  • car ownership
  • public transport
  • neighbourhood
  • transport
  • accessibility


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