Is Weight Gain Contagious?

Photo:Healthy Weight

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If you think the journey to optimal health is a solo one, you might want to reconsider. Because the more we learn about the science of health, the more we realize that it's not just about the individual but the health of our community and our planet. In fact, a new study showed that when it comes to maintaining your happy weight, where you live matters—a lot.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed data from over 1,500 military families who were stationed at about 40 different military bases all around the world. The purpose of the study was to see if exposure to communities with higher rates of obesity affected the BMI of the participants and increased the individual risk of weight gain. They evaluated the participants with in-person examinations and questionnaires. What they found was pretty shocking: that living in an area with higher rates of obesity is associated with a higher BMI and an increased risk of obesity in both children and adults.

So how do you explain this? The lead author, Ashlesha Datar explained to the New York Times, "Subconsciously, you are affected by what people around you are doing. When I travel to the Bay Area, for example, everyone is riding bicycles. You get there, and it seems like you have to buy a bicycle. If you move to a community where a sedentary lifestyle is the norm, you join that. There is this social influence.”

So while it's unlikely that we'll pack our bags and move to one of the fittest cities in America, we could all stand to be a little more mindful of how our environment is affecting our physical activity level, eating habits, and frame of mind.

If you feel like you need some healthy influence in your life, try visiting one of these 10 best healthy vacation destinations.

Frank Lipman, M.D.

Is Weight Gain Contagious?
Frank Lipman, M.D.

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