Would increasing access to recreational places promote healthier weights and a healthier nation?


Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Concordia University Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, 12800 N. Lake Shore Drive, Mequon, WI 53097, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


Addressing gaps in evidence on causal associations, this study tested the hypothesis that better access to recreational places close to home helps people to maintain lower body mass index (BMI) using a retrospective longitudinal study design and up to 6 years of data for the same individuals (1,522,803 men and 183,618 women). Participants were military veterans aged 20-64 who received healthcare through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2009-2014 and lived in a metropolitan area. Although there were cross-sectional associations, we found no longitudinal evidence that access to parks and fitness facilities was associated with BMI for either men or women in the full sample or in subgroups of residential movers and stayers. Our findings suggest that simply increasing the number of parks and fitness facilities may not be enough to achieve needed population-level reductions in weight.