A new study that looks at the link between walkability and children’s body mass index (BMI) and how this might be affected by socioeconomic circumstances and lifestyle characteristics has been published in Journal of Transport & Health.

The study, which has been produced by members of the ADR Wales Health and Well-being research team, found that children were more likely to be obese if they lived in areas classed as more walkable, even after adjusting for socio-economic circumstances and lifestyle characteristics.

The study’s findings suggested that children were more likely to be obese if their parents were overweight or obese or if they were living in poverty. Children were less likely to be obese if they spent three days or more per week in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, if they were reading less often for enjoyment or if they ate breakfast every day. However, there was no association between walkability and being overweight.

According to the World Health Organisation, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and young people aged five to 19 has risen substantially from just 8% in 1990 to 20% in 2022. Wales demonstrates the highest rates of childhood obesity in the UK with just over a quarter of children (26%) being overweight or obese in 2020–2021, a study suggests.

This is the first study to link Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) data from Wales to an objective measure of walkability to investigate the potential influence of the built and socioeconomic environments as well as lifestyle characteristics on children’s BMI category.

The study also utilised the Wales Active Living Environments (Wal-ALE) Database, which contains data relating to the active living characteristics of the built environment in Wales, UK.

Read the full journal article