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The obesogenic environment

When walking is not an option, roads get full.
When walking is not an option, roads get full.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

There is a new term that is floating around the discussion about the obesity epidemic and health in general. The term is “obesogenic environments”. The term refers to places where people live that encourage obesity and bad health habits. The term arose out of some famous research on health and lifestyle. Other research has shown that obesity can cluster in certain areas.

An obesogenic environment is an area that encourages people to choose bad health habits. These areas are common in our modern urban and suburban areas. They are areas where it is difficult to walk from place to place. Buildings are built with easy access elevators and it is often difficult to find stairwells. Local food choices consist mainly of fast food and other high calorie, low nutrient foods.

When bad choices are easier or are the only choice, it makes it harder for people to live in a healthy way. People who want to walk more have to make time in their busy lives to walk as opposed to walking as a part of their daily routine. If only poor food choices are convenient, then people tend to choose the poor food choices.

It is often not possible for a person to get out of an obesogenic environment. For the person who wants to live a healthier life while stuck in an environment that encourages obesity, they first have to recognize the poor choices around them. Then it is a matter of identifying ways to work around the bad choices. Finding and taking the stairs, parking at the far end of a parking lot, and stocking a work desk with healthy snacks can be first steps in finding ways to keep an obesogenic environment from encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle and the poor health that goes along with it.