Green space definition affects associations of green space with overweight and physical activity

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In epidemiological studies, exposure to green space is inconsistently associated with being overweight and physical activity, possibly because studies differ widely in their definition of green space exposure, inclusion of important confounders, study population and data analysis.


We evaluated whether the association of green space with being overweight and physical activity depended upon definition of greenspace.


We conducted a cross-sectional study using data from a Dutch national health survey of 387,195 adults. Distance to the nearest park entrance and surrounding green space, based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) or a detailed Dutch land-use database (TOP10NL), was calculated for each residential address. We used logistic regression analyses to study the association of green space exposure with being overweight and being moderately or vigorously physically active outdoors at least 150 min/week (self-reported). To study the shape of the association, we specified natural splines and quintiles.


The distance to the nearest park entrance was not associated with being overweight or outdoor physical activity. Associations of surrounding green space with being overweight or outdoor physical activity were highly non-linear. For NDVI surrounding greenness, we observed significantly decreased odds of being overweight [300 m buffer, odds ratio (OR) = 0.88; 95% CI: 0.86, 0.91] and increased odds for outdoor physical activity [300 m buffer, OR = 1.14; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.17] in the highest quintile compared to the lowest quintile. For TOP10NL surrounding green space, associations were mostly non-significant. Associations were generally stronger for subjects living in less urban areas and for the smaller buffers.


Associations of green space with being overweight and outdoor physical activity differed considerably between different green space definitions. Associations were strongest for NDVI surrounding greenness.

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