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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Geriatrics - Non-Clinical Medicine - Public Health and Epidemiology

Physical Inactivity Mediates the Association between the Perceived Exercising Behavior of Social Network Members and Obesity: A Cross-Sectional Study
Published: Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Author: Janette S. Leroux et al.

by Janette S. Leroux, Spencer Moore, Lucie Richard, Lise Gauvin


Social networks influence the spread of depression, health behaviors, and obesity. The social networks of older urban-dwelling adults were examined to assess whether physical inactivity mediated the association between social networks and obesity.


Data come from the Montreal Neighborhood Networks and Healthy Aging study (n?=?2707). Self-reported height and weight were used to calculate body mass index (BMI) with obesity defined as a BMI=30. A name generator/interpreter instrument was used to elicit participants’ core ties (i.e., alters), and assess whether alters exercised regularly and resided in participants’ neighborhoods. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire was used to measure physical inactivity. Separate multilevel logistic regression analyses were conducted for younger (18–54 years) and older (55 years plus) age groups to examine the association between the exercising behavior of alters and obesity. Ancillary analyses examined whether the residential location of alters was associated with obesity. Mediation analyses assessed whether physical inactivity mediated the association between alter exercising behavior and obesity. Models adjusted for participant socio-demographic and -economic characteristics.


Among the older age stratum (55 years plus), physically inactive individuals were more likely obese (OR 2.14; 95% CIs: 1.48–3.10); participants who had more exercising alters were less likely obese (OR: 0.85; 95% CIs: 0.72–0.99). Physical inactivity mediated the association between exercising alters and obesity. Ancillary analyses showed that having exercising alters in the neighborhood compared to other locations tended to reduce the odds of obesity.


This work demonstrates the importance of social networks among older adults in facilitating a physically active lifestyle and reducing the odds of obesity. Such findings can inform the design of public health interventions that seek to improve the environmental conditions supporting the physical activity of older adults.