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The Environment & Obesity: What’s the Connection?

The Environment & Obesity: What’s the Connection?

Obesity happens when you continuously gain weight over a long period of time. You gain weight when you eat more food than calories you use in a day. When you don’t expend the amount of calories that you consume it causes an energy imbalance.

Your weight accumulates each year and after a while you become obese. Your environment also affects your health.  Sometimes, your environment causes an energy imbalance and causes you to gain weight.

How does the environment relate to your health?

The environment is:

  • Pollution
  • Food contamination
  • Radiation such as sunlight or x-rays
  • Your lifestyles
  • Your life quality
  • Your family influences
  • Your living and working conditions
  • Your society

The combination of the environment and your health is complicated. However, you can control many things in your environment.  The information below describes what’s possible. 

Environmental Factors Influencing Obesity:

Automobiles, longer workdays, and suburban housing are examples of environment factors that favor inactive lifestyles.  Major factors in your environment include:


  • Access to places to workout.  Gyms, recreation centers, parks, playgrounds

What You Eat

  • Food Portion.  The “American” diet can include huge food portions.  These portions are available to us in restaurants, fast food places, gas stations, movie theaters, supermarkets, and even at home. Some of these meals can feed two or more people.  Eating large portions means too much energy IN. Over time, this will cause weight gain if it isn’t balanced with enough physical activity.
  • Access to Healthy Food.  If you live in an area without stores that sell healthy foods (such as fresh fruits and vegetables), it is known as food deserts.   Living in a food desert makes it hard to eat right.  Or, sometimes healthy foods are too costly.
  • Food Advertising.  Ads from food companies surround us.  These ads glamorize high-calorie, high-fat snacks and sugary drinks.  There are healthy food options that taste great with the high calories or high fat.  Find options that are good for you, without the calorie cost.

Your Day-to-Day Environment

  • Your Worksite.  Worksites can encourage good nutrition and physical activity.  If your employer offers a wellness program and you can take advantage of it!  Commute to work by biking or riding a bus.  

    • Ask yourself:  Do you have enough time to get physical activity each day?  Or Do you feel exhausted and without the energy to workout after your workday?  Think about some real life adjustments to make the day work for you.  What are some little ways you can make time for yourself throughout the day?

  • Your Neighborhood.  Are there safe parks, trails, or sidewalks to use?  If there are, take advantage of them! If not, you can always get active around your home! 

  • Your School.  Encourage your schools to include regular physical activity as part of the school day and offer .

The good news is there are things you can do!

  • Find Activities You Love to Do.  You have choices.  Find something you like to do.  You can go inside or outside.   Activities around your home, gardening, dancing, pick-up basketball, are some of the many activities that you can do each day.
  • Within Your Family.  You are a role model for your children.  Participating in healthy activities as a family encourages life-long healthy habits in your children.
  • Your School.  Encourage your schools to include regular physical activity as part of the school day and offer .

Be aware of the environment you live in and its impact on your health.  Your choices are part of your environment.  Make healthier choices – choose proper nutrition, get enough physical activity, get enough sleep, and don’t smoke

For more information:

Go to the Environmental Health health topic.