A soon-to-be-published study links body weight to the walkability of neighborhoods, giving further evidence that smart design and New Urbanism provide many benefits, from health to the environment.
The study, to be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at body mass index (BMI) from nearly a half million Salt Lake County residents and found that people were at less risk of being obese or overweight if they lived in walkable neighborhoods. Walkable areas tend to be more densely populated, have a range of amenities that are accessible on foot, and have pedestrian friendly layouts.
Interestingly, the study found correlation between the age of a neighborhood and its walkability. Namely, neighborhoods built before 1950 tend to be easier on pedestrians -- not surprising given that they were originally conceived with more foot traffic in mind. Today's communities, especially in the burbs and exurbs, tend to be slavishly tied to automobiles, both in terms of physical topography and sprawling distances.
According to the findings, a man of average height and weight (6 feet, 200 pounds) weighed 10 pounds less if he lived in a walkable neighborhood versus a less walkable neighborhood. A woman of average size (about 5-foot-5, 149 pounds) weighed six pounds less.
These figures should be of serious concern, since 86% of adults in the U.S. are expected to be overweight or obese by 2030, according to a report published in the July 2008 online issue of Obesity. Related health care spending is projected to be as much as $956.9 billion as a result.
Of course, walking isn't just about keeping fit. It also is the greenest way to get where you need to go! Just ask John Francis, PhD, who traveled back and forth, across and around the Americas numerous times on foot, eschewing all car travel for 22 years!
Also check out WalkScore's recent list of the 10 most walkable U.S. cities (as well as the least, and data by individual neighborhood across much of the country). Smart green design can really pay off!
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