London: The secret is out, women who live within less than 300 metres from green space are less likely to be overweight or obese than men because of the increasing levels of physical activity, researchers in Spain have found.
The study, published in the journal International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, found a strong association between overweight or obesity in women and lack of access to urban green spaces, such as parks and gardens.
However, no such association was found in men.
“This study highlights the important role played by green space in the risk of excess weight and obesity in Spanish women. Understanding the mechanisms that explain this association is crucial to plan effective and successful public health interventions,” said study researcher Manolis Kogevinas from Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).
According to the World Health Organisation, in 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Of these, more than 650 million were obese — a preventable condition.
Using information from the MCC-Spain multi-case control study, the researchers analysed data on 2,354 people from seven Spanish provinces (Asturias, Barcelona, Cantabria, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre and Valencia).
The study participants, who ranged in age from 20 to 85 years, answered survey questions about their residential history, lifestyle (physical activity, leisure time, etc), weight and height.
In addition, hip and waist circumference was measured and blood or saliva samples were collected.
To determine whether or not participants were overweight or obese, the researchers used two markers that are commonly used in the epidemiologic studies: body mass index and waist-hip ratio.
“We do not have a clear understanding of the biological determinants behind the observed gender differences,” said study lead author Cristina O’Callaghan-Gordo.
“There are probably social factors, such as differences in how men and women use green spaces, that explain this disparity,” O’Callaghan-Gordo said.
According to the researchers, natural outdoor environments, including green spaces within urban settings, promote health and well-being by increasing levels of physical activity, reducing exposure to noise and reducing psychological stress, which is an important driver of weight gain.