Natural environment and childhood obesity: A systematic review

Peng Jia, Shaoqing Dai, Kristen E Rohli, Robert V Rohli, Yanan Ma, Chao Yu, Xiongfeng Pan, Weiqi Zhou
Obesity Reviews 2020 September 1
The associations between built and food environments and childhood obesity have been studied extensively. However, the association between the natural environment and childhood obesity has received too little scholarly attention. This study reviewed the literature published before 1 January 2019, which described associations between a full range of natural environmental factors (e.g., rainfall, temperature, sunlight, natural disasters, flood and drought) and weight-related behaviours and childhood obesity. Five cross-sectional studies and one longitudinal study were identified. Measures of natural environmental factors varied across six included studies, falling into five broad categories: weather conditions, altitude, natural disaster risk, air quality and day length. It was found that temperature was a significant weather indicator in most included studies and was associated with a reduction of daily physical activity. Children living in high-altitude areas were more likely to be shorter and heavier than their counterparts in low-altitude areas. Findings of this study will contribute to helping multiple stakeholders, including policy makers and urban planners, and formulate health policies and interventions to mitigate the detrimental impact of the natural environment on childhood obesity. More longitudinal studies should be designed to confirm these effects and explore the potential health effects of more natural environmental factors.

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