Location, location, location. It’s not just a mantra sung by real estate moguls. Zip codes can also contribute to likelihood of becoming overweight or obese, finds new research. Being overweight is a risk factor for myriad chronic conditions, from diabetes to heart disease.
Americans living in rural areas are more likely to be overweight and obese than those living in cities, according to a new Journal of Rural Health study.
University of Kansas researchers who analyzed data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics, including measured (not self-reported) height and weights, found adults ages 20 to 39 more likely to be obese in rural areas compared to urban. The same difference was not found in older adults.
Two main culprits include diet and physical isolation, said Christie Befort, PhD, study lead and assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health at University of Kansas Medical Center, in a statement.
The diet in rural America tends to be “full of rich, homemade foods including lots of meat and desserts,” said Befort. Americans living in rural areas also tend to have diets higher in fat.
“Access is often about travel time,” said Befort, if you live far from a town with a gym, but it could also be that there’s no place to go if the nearest town has no fitness center. People living in rural areas also may not be used to viewing physical activity as a leisure pursuit, said Befort.
If you live in a rural area, look for nearby running clubs or cycling groups you can join, or consider forming your own walking, hiking, or healthy-recipe-swap Meetup group to find like-minded neighbors you can team up with in an effort to lead a healthy lifestyle.