New Research Shows Walkable Neighborhoods Key to Health

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Research has shown that walkable neighborhoods, especially those with grocery stores offering fresh food, are correlated with lower rates of obesity in residents.

Photo: Courtesy of CityCentre

By Erin Weaver

Neighborhood layout can play a significant role in residents’ health, according to new research that correlates local amenities and obesity. In the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers at the University of British Columbia looked at hundreds of neighborhoods around San Diego and Seattle, assigning them scores based on factors that included parks, walkability, and access to stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables within a half-mile. (The presence of fast-food restaurants in that range lowered a neighborhood’s score.) The researchers then examined the health information of 681 randomly selected children between the ages of six and eleven in those areas; after accounting for various other factors, such as ethnicity, family income, and parents’ body mass index, they found that children in high-scoring neighborhoods were 59% less likely to be obese than children in low-scoring areas. The researchers conclude that people are more likely to be physically active when they can comfortably walk to nearby amenities, something that proved more common in older neighborhoods examined in the study. Grocery stores in strip development, for example, offer fresh food but are often virtually inaccessible on foot.

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January 28, 2013