How Does a Hilly Urban Environment Influence Daily Physical Activity in Obese Individuals?

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Increases in physical activity (PA) are promoted by walking in an outdoor environment. Along with walking speed, slope is a major determinant of exercise intensity, and energy expenditure. The hypothesis was that in free-living conditions, a hilly environment diminishes PA to a greater extent in obese (OB) when compared with control (CO) individuals.


To assess PA types and patterns, 28 CO (22 ± 2 kg/m2) and 14 OB (33 ± 4 kg/m2) individuals wore during an entire day 2 accelerometers and 1 GPS device, around respectively their waist, ankle and shoulder. They performed their usual PA and were asked to walk an additional 60 min per day.


The duration of inactivity and activity with OB individuals tended to be, respectively, higher and lower than that of CO individuals (P = .06). Both groups spent less time walking uphill/downhill than on the level (20%, 19%, vs. 61% of total walking duration, respectively, P < .001). However OB individuals spent less time walking uphill/downhill per day than CO (25 ± 15 and 38 ± 15 min/d, respectively, P < 0.05) and covered a shorter distance per day (3.8 km vs 5.2 km, P < 0.01).


BMI and outdoor topography should also be considered when prescribing extra walking in free-living conditions.

Nguyen and Lecoultre with the Dept of Physiology, Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Hills is with the Mater Research Hospital, Mater Medical Research Institute and Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. Schutz is with the Dept of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.