The environment contribution to gender differences in childhood obesity and organized sports engagement

Helena Nogueira*, Margarida M. Costeira e Pereira, Diogo Costa, Augusta Gama, Aristides Machado-Rodrigues, Maria Raquel Silva, Vítor R. Marques, Cristina M. Padez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study aims to analyze gender-specific associations between sports activity outside of school and obesity, observing to what extent the local built environment contributes to the patterns found. Methods: A total of 2253 children aged 6.0-11.0 years were assessed: 49.3% girls and 50.7% boys. Children's weight and height were measured, age and sex-specific BMI cut-off points were used to define normal vs overweight/obesity. Children's organized sports (OS) activity was assessed by questionnaire, and local facilities for children's engagement in OS were analyzed. Logistic regression models were computed, adjusted for confounding variables. Results: Results showed greater overweight and obesity (25.1% vs 20.1%) and lower OS engagement (66.5% vs 73.8%) in girls as well as greater impact of OS engagement on weight status in girls (OR for having a normal weight = 1.434 in girls vs 1.043 in boys). Additionally, opportunities to engage in OS were scarce for girls. Conclusions: The gender gap in children's weight status and OS engagement might be enhanced by an environmental mismatch that undermines girls' opportunities to play sports. There should be more opportunities for girls to engage in their favorite sports as a means to tackle the obesity epidemic and to promote gender equality.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23322
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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