The next time you're invited to a buffet or go to the cafeteria for lunch; steel yourself for some heavy-duty exercising the following day. Otherwise, obesity might just creep up on you unnoticed. And if your community is unpleasant for physical activity, the situation just gets worse; proclaims a new study.
Ross Brownson, Ph.D., senior author of the study and a professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis said that it's not that people don't want to get physical activity or eat healthy foods, but lack of easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables has made people obese.
In the study conducted over 258 randomly selected adults in 12 rural communities in Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee showed that lack of sidewalks for walking or biking or just few places available to be active has made people perceive their community unpleasant for physical activity.
"It's not that people don't want to get physical activity or eat healthy foods, but we've made it difficult in many communities," said Brownson.
"People in small towns spend a great deal of time in cars, and they also may not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables in their markets," Brownson added.
During the study, the researchers asked the participants about their about their access to produce and low-fat foods, frequency and location of food shopping and frequency and location of restaurant dining. They also were asked how they perceived their community for physical activity.
The findings revealed that respondents who ate out often, especially at buffets, cafeterias and fast food restaurants, were more likely to be obese.
Rural adults have higher levels of obesity and are less active in their leisure time than urban and suburban U.S. adults, said Brownson.
Those with a high school education or less reported limited access to fruits and vegetables and were more likely to shop at convenience stores.
"Although obesity rates are higher in rural areas, this is one of the first studies to look at food choices and exercise in this population," says Alicia Casey, first author of the paper and now a doctoral student in health communications at Penn State University.
"Determining how much these factors increase the risk of obesity in rural areas can help us determine methods to help this group," he added.