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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Neighbourhood built environment associations with body size in adults: mediating effects of activity and sedentariness in a cross-sectional study of New Zealand adults

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Melody Oliver, Karen Witten, Tony Blakely, Karl Parker, Hannah Badland, Grant Schofield, Vivienne Ivory, Jamie Pearce, Suzanne Mavoa, Erica Hinckson, Paul Sweetsur, Robin Kearns
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

HMB, GS, KW, RAK, SM, and EH originally conceived of and designed the URBAN study; MO, TB, and VI further contributed to the study design and coordination. HMB led the data collection and data cleaning. MO, KW, TB, and GS conceptualised and led the current investigation. KP, TB, and PS conceptualised and undertook data treatment and analyses. SM led the built environment measurement. JP and RAK provided geographic expertise and input to the mansucript draft; JP led the development and construction of the NDAI. MO drafted the manuscript. All authors read, contributed to, and approved the manuscript.

Authors' information

Not applicable.

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.


We thank all members of the Understanding the Relationship between Activity and Neighbourhoods (URBAN) team, as well as the study participants, for their contributions to the research. The URBAN Study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The authors are independent of the funder, and the funder had no role in the design and conduct of the study or in the preparation of the manuscript. The authors declare they have no actual or potential competing financial interests.



The aim of this study was to determine the associations between body size and built environment walkability variables, as well as the mediating role of physical activity and sedentary behaviours with body size.


Objective environment, body size (body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC)), and sedentary time and physical activity data were collected from a random selection of 2033 adults aged 20–65 years living in 48 neighbourhoods across four New Zealand cities. Multilevel regression models were calculated for each comparison between body size outcome and built environment exposure.

Results and Discussion

Street connectivity and neighborhood destination accessibility were significant predictors of body size (1 SDchange predicted a 1.27 to 1.41 % reduction in BMI and a 1.76 to 2.29 % reduction in WC). Significantrelationships were also observed for streetscape (1 SD change predicted a 1.33 % reduction in BMI) anddwelling density (1 SD change predicted a 1.97 % reduction in BMI). Mediation analyses revealed asignificant mediating effect of physical activity on the relationships between body size and street connectivity and neighbourhood destination accessibility (explaining between 10.4 and 14.6 % of the total effect). No significant mediating effect of sedentary behaviour was found. Findings from this cross-sectional study of a random selection of New Zealand adults are consistent with international research. Findings are limited to individual environment features only; conclusions cannot be drawn about the cumulative and combined effect of individual features on outcomes.


Built environment features were associated with body size in the expected directions. Objectively-assessed physical activity mediated observed built environment-body size relationships.
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