CORVALLIS, Ore., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- One way to help address the epidemic of obesity in the United States is improved access to hiking trails, parks and recreational programs, researchers suggest.
Randy Rosenberger, an associate professor at Oregon State University, says some of the health issues that plague overweight and obese people can be alleviated by a stronger commitment to recreational opportunities.
"Research is now showing there's a close correlation between public health and recreational opportunities, both close to home and in state parks," Rosenberger said in a statement.
"And it's not just about losing weight. It's been found that active obese individuals have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary."
Rosenberger said he's seen the effects of more recreational opportunities when doing research in West Virginia, a state having some of the highest levels of sedentary citizens.
"In one town in West Virginia, there were very few sidewalks, no biking or hiking trails, no convenient way for people to exercise locally," Rosenberger said. "They converted an abandoned rail line into a new hiking trail; and research found that 25 percent of the people who used it were previously sedentary -- the people who really needed it the most."
The findings were published in the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration.