Suburban teens fatter than those in cities

By • Published: March 28th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The old adage “you are what you eat” could soon become “you are where you live.”

A new University of Maryland study shows that teenagers living in suburban neighborhoods are twice as likely to pack on extra pounds as their city-dwelling peers.

The reason? Researchers say exercise is often more built in to the daily lives of city kids. Children living in urban areas often spend more of their day getting around on foot than they do on wheels.

Suburban kids, on the other hand, tend to have less exercise built in to their routines and often have less available time for finding other ways to exercise because of time spent commuting. Researchers had already noticed this phenomenon in suburban adults.

Findings from the study of nine-thousand teens show suburbanites were still twice as likely as city kids to be obese five years later. One difference researchers did notice was that when teens moved to urban areas from the suburbs they tended to lose weight. But city kids didn’t seem to gain weight when they moved to less foot-friendly locales. The researchers say this could be because city teens already have well-established health habits they keep even after settling in the sprawling suburbs.

That doesn’t mean parents should flee to cities. Cities have health issues too, namely more air pollution. But experts say parents should carve out time for children to exercise each day and limit T-V time.

Sounds simple, but it could make a difference.