Obesity levels are high and increasing worldwide. Being overweight is linked with increased death rates and contributes to a wide range of conditions, including ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and diseases of the gall bladder.1 The principal cause of obesity is an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. And there is growing recognition that, independently of individual characteristics, place of residence may be associated with health outcomes, including body size2 and health related behaviours, such as level of physical exercise.3
Few studies have explored which features of the local neighbourhood might be related to these outcomes or behaviours, although perceived attractiveness has been found to be related to levels of physical activity.4 Levels of incivilities, such as litter and graffiti, are associated with poorer health outcomes such as general wellbeing but not, to our knowledge, with levels of physical activity. Few studies use objectively measured indicators of the residential environment or similar research instruments across different settings. Based on our previous work, we hypothesised that areas which are pleasant with lots of greenery and few incivilities might encourage people to take exercise and thereby influence levels of obesity.