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A longitudinal and cross-sectional examination of the relationship between reasons for choosing a neighbourhood, physical activity and body mass index

Tanya R Berry1*, John C Spence1, Chris M Blanchard2, Nicoleta Cutumisu1, Joy Edwards3 and Genevieve Selfridge1

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2 Department of Medicine, Centre for Clinical Research Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

3 Population and Public Health Portfolio, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2010, 7:57  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-7-57

Published: 5 July 2010



The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between body mass index and neighborhood walkability, socioeconomic status (SES), reasons for choosing neighborhoods, physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, and demographic variables.


Two studies, one longitudinal and one cross-sectional, were conducted. Participants included adults (n = 572) who provided complete data in 2002 and 2008 and a concurrent sample from 2008 (n = 1164). Data were collected with longitudinal and cross-sectional telephone surveys. Objective measures of neighborhood characteristics (walkability and SES) were calculated using census data and geographic information.


In the longitudinal study, neighborhood choice for ease of walking and proximity to outdoor recreation interacted with whether participants had moved during the course of study to predict change in BMI over 6 years. Age, change in activity status, and neighborhood SES were also significant predictors of BMI change. Cross-sectionally, neighborhood SES and neighborhood choice for ease of walking were significantly related to BMI as were gender, age, activity level and fruit and vegetable intake.


Results demonstrate that placing importance on choosing neighborhoods that are considered to be easily walkable is an important contributor to body weight. Findings that objectively measured neighbourhood SES and neighborhood choice variables contributed to BMI suggest that future research consider the role of neighborhood choice in examining the relationships between the built environment and body weight.