‘Walkable’ Neighborhoods Linked to Less Obesity, Diabetes

March 4, 2022 — People who live in more walkable areas are much more physically active and less likely to gain weight, develop type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, researchers have concluded after analyzing results from dozens of previous studies.

Gillian L. Booth, MD, and Nicholas A. Howell, MD, both from the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, used. Results from over 170 studies examining how the “built environment” influences physical activity, obesity, and diabetes. They published their results in the journal endocrine reviews.

The built environment includes street layouts, residential and commercial zoning. Bike lanes and public transportation, Booth explained in an email to WebMD.

When the suburbs were first developed, Booth noted. Zoning laws separated residential and commercial areas. So people had to travel farther to get to grocery stores or a bank, and car use grew.

Dense neighborhoods where people can walk or cycle to public transportation are associated with more physical activity and better health.

But even if the built environment is walkable, Booth said, if there are plenty of fast food restaurants nearby. But no grocery stores — the so-called “fast food swamp” — or if the streets aren’t safe to walk on, the health benefits may be reduced or eliminated.

Physical activity, obesity, prediabetes, diabetes and blood pressure

The following studies are examples of how walking in the neighborhood has a positive effect on physical activity and the risk of being overweight or obese, prediabetes, diabetes. And high blood pressure:

  • International Network for Physical Activity and the Environment study of 14 cities in 10 countries found that people in the most walkable areas (with the best public transportation options and access to parks) spent about 1–1.5 hours more per week being at least moderately physically active compared to people in the least pedestrian areas.
  • IN study In nearly 9,000 neighborhoods in Ontario, young. And middle-aged people who lived in areas with more or less walkability were less likely to be overweight or obese (43% vs. 53%).
  • IN study Of the 1.1 million adults in 15 cities in Ontario. Canada with normal blood sugar levels, people living in areas with the least, not the most, walking had a 20% higher rate of developing prediabetes over 8 years. Risk varied across racial/ethnic groups.
  • BUT study of 1.6 million adults living in Toronto, Ontario, found that people living in low-walking areas were 30-50% more likely to develop diabetes within 5 years.
  • In another Canadian studymoving from a difficult area to a well-traveled area was associated with a 54% reduction in the chance of being diagnosed with high blood pressure within 10 years.

Air pollution, crime, fast food swamps, crumbling sidewalks

“Walking appears to protect against metabolic disease,” Booth said, although “there may be other, more important health factors in the environment.”

People living in downtown and urban areas in the US. And Canada often have lower incomes or live in fast food swamps, also known as food deserts. Which are associated with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.

High crime rates, fewer connections between neighbors, and poor infrastructure (such as dilapidated sidewalks) make walking less safe.

In one of research Howell and Booth have done this previously. They found that high traffic no longer appears to protect against diabetes. And high blood pressure in areas with high levels of traffic-related air pollution or fast food swamps.

“Not every neighborhood can be rebuilt,” Booth said. But we can add elements such as bike and walking paths, safe walking infrastructure. And more accessible and cleaner public transportation so that people can use greener. And more active modes of transport.” associated with health benefits.

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