Differential associations of walking and cycling with obesity markers in a sample of 12,776 French adults (the ACTI-Cités project)

Jean-Michel Oppert, Medhi Menai, Hélène Charreire, Simon Chantal, Julie-Anne Nazare, Camille Perchoux, Christophe Enaux, Serge Hercberg, Léopold Fezeu

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Introduction: Active transportation has been associated with excess body weight in some populations but the evidence relies mostly on the use of the body mass index (BMI, weight/height), a useful but crude indicator. We analysed associations of walking and cycling assessed separately with more specific obesity markers such as waist circumference, a marker of abdominal obesity related to cardio-metabolic risk. Method: A new tool (Sedentary, Transport and Activity questionnaire) was designed, validated vs. accelerometry and doubly labelled water (Mensah BMC Public Health 2016) and then self-administered to 55,694 participants (70% women) of an on-going web-cohort (NutriNetSanté)(Menai IJBNPA 2015). In 12,776 subjects, obesity measures were taken during a clinical visit including percent body fat (bio-impedance) and waist circumference. Associations between walking, cycling and obesity markers were analysed by multivariate regression models accounting for age, gender, socioeconomic status, urban density and diet. Results: Walking > 2.5 h/week was associated in women only with lower percent body fat (-1.1%) and waist circumference (-1.7 cm) in addition to lower weight (-1.8 kg)(all p < 0.001). Cycling > 1.5 h/week was associated in both men and women with lower percent body fat (-2.5 and -1.9% respectively) and waist circumference (-4.4 and -2.1 cm) in addition to lower weight (-4.3 and -1.4 kg) (all p < 0.001). Results were unaltered with further adjustment on household and leisure physical activity. Conclusion: Walking and cycling were favourably associated with abdominal fatness. Active transportation needs to be part of public health policies focused on prevention of obesity and promotion of metabolic health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberS72
JournalJournal of Physical Activity and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • body mass index
  • Obesity
  • walking
  • cycling
  • French adults

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