Background In Canada, there is limited research examining the effects of objectively measured neighbourhood environments on physical activity (PA) and obesity.
Purpose To determine the relationships between variables from built and social environments and PA and overweight / obesity across 86 Ottawa neighbourhoods.
Methods Individual-level data including self-reported leisure-time PA, height and weight were examined using a sample of 4727 adults from four combined cycles (years 2001/2003/2005/2007) of the Canadian Community Health Survey. Data on neighbourhood characteristics were obtained from the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study; a large study of neighbourhoods and health in Ottawa. Binomial multivariate multilevel models were used to examine the relationships of environmental and individual variables with PA and overweight / obesity using population weights.
Results Approximately 75% of adults were inactive (<12.5 kJ/kg/day) while half were overweight / obese. Results of the multilevel models suggest that higher numbers of convenience stores and fast food outlets in a neighbourhood were associated with increased odds of being overweight / obese, while a larger number of restaurants was associated with lower odds. Season of data collection was significantly associated with PA in men and women with the odds of PA in winter being half that of summer. Intraclass coefficients were low, and identified that the models explained a small proportion of the neighbourhood-level variance in PA and overweight / obesity.
Conclusions Findings from this sample identified that recreation and social environments did not exert significant influences on PA or overweight / obesity, however, food outlets did show a significant influence on female overweight / obesity. The impact of individual-level characteristics to the model was modest.