Individual, social, and environmental correlates of physical activity and body mass index in El Paso, Texas

Candace Dawn Rutt, University of Texas at El Paso


The current study used Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) to examine how social, individual, and environmental level factors influenced walking for exercise and Body Mass Index (BMI) in a primarily Hispanic border community. Data from a 2001 community-wide health survey was matched to environmental data using geocoding techniques in ARC VIEW software. A total of 996 adults were surveyed by phone and 452 were successfully geocoded. The sample was 71% female, 79% Hispanic, 42 ± 17 years old, moderately acculturated, and had SES levels of semi-skilled workers. Walking for exercise in the entire sample was related to fewer perceived barriers to exercise, better overall health, higher SES, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, lower BMI and living in a more residential neighborhood. Among the sub-sample of participants who reported walking for exercise in the past month, walking was related to older age, greater sidewalk availability, higher social support for walking, living in a more commercial neighborhood, and having a lower BMI. Greater perceived barriers to exercise was related to worse self-reported overall health for all participants while having higher BMI and fewer diseases were related to more perceived barriers to exercise for the participants who reported walking in the past month. Greater perceived barriers to exercise was also negatively related to time spent in moderate and vigorous physical activities. Perceived benefits of walking were related to having more diseases and a greater distance to physical activity facilities in the sub-sample of walkers. Increasing BMI was related to worse self-reported overall health, older age, higher SES, more reported diseases, higher population density, fewer four-way intersections, more time spent watching television, and decreased fruit/vegetable consumption. Consuming more fruits and vegetables was related to engaging in light intensity physical activities while spending more time engaging in vigorous physical activities was related to greater sidewalk availability, having more physical activity facilities in one's neighborhood, increased distance to physical activity facilities, and lower SES. The environment appeared to have an independent impact on BMI, walking, and vigorous physical activity even after individual and social level variables were controlled. This study is one of the first to show that objectively measured sidewalk availability is an important factor for influencing walking as a leisure-time activity as well as vigorous physical activity. Interestingly, depending upon whether a community sample or a sample of regular walkers was used for analysis, self-reported walking for exercise was related to either living in a more residential or commercial neighborhood. Although only a small amount of variance in walking and BMI was explained by the models the results are still important since changing the environment could impact a large number of individuals within a population. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Public Health|Psychology, Physiological

Recommended Citation

Rutt, Candace Dawn, "Individual, social, and environmental correlates of physical activity and body mass index in El Paso, Texas" (2003). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3135753.