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Research shows local environment affects levels of youth obesity

As rates of childhood obesity continue to soar in the US, a study has indicated that where a child grows up can have a huge influence on their weight.

Over the last thirty years, data shows that obesity in adolescents has increased by four times and the rate for children has doubled. However, researchers at the University of Minnesota and University of Missouri have conducted a study that indicates that the availability of public land benefits children, while reducing levels of child obesity.

According to the results, the US counties with greater access to forests and nature trails had lower incidences of obesity in children and teenagers. Those children in counties with very few opportunities to take part in outdoor activity were more likely to be obese or overweight.

Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, an associate professor at University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, wasn’t surprised by the findings, although she did state that nature preserves may not be used to exercise but to appreciate the surroundings.

Stanis added that it was important to provide access to trails where people can go to walk, run or cycle. However, although some poorer areas may have access to public trails, high crime rates could make them unsafe for children.

Schools in the UK are also tackling the problem of rising obesity rates, with one initiative involving increasing the availability of healthy food, with the creation of school tuckshops. Merseyside is just one of the regions that is encouraging more exercise, combined with a healthy diet.

Posted by Susan
September 17, 2014
Research

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