People in walker-friendly neighbourhoods more fit

July 29th, 2008 - 4:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 29 (IANS) People are less likely to be obese if they live in neighbourhoods that favour walking. A recent study found that pre-1950 neighbourhoods tended to favour walking, designed with the pedestrian in mind, just as later ones were designed to facilitate car travel.

The study found that a man of average height and weight (6 foot, 200 pounds) weighed 10 pounds less if he lived in a walk-worthy neighbourhood versus a less walker friendly neighbourhood. An average woman (5-foot-5, 149 pounds), weighed six pounds less.

The study linked the body mass index (BMI) of nearly a half million Salt Lake County residents with 2000 Census data.

Demographer Ken Smith, of University of Utah and the study’s co-author, said that neighbourhood characteristics also play a potentially important role in affecting residents’ risk of obesity.

“It is difficult for individuals to change their behaviour,” he said, “but we can build environments that promote healthy behaviour.”

Using height and weight data collected by the Driver Licence Division (DLD) of the Utah Department of Public Safety, Smith and colleagues calculated the BMI of 453,927 Salt Lake County residents aged between 25 and 64 years, linking it to census-block groups via geographical coordinates.

According to the study, during 2003-2004 roughly 70 percent of men and 61 percent of women in the US were overweight.

These findings will be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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