What does a walkable neighborhood look like? In means that when you walk out of the door of your home, you can comfortably make it to the grocery store toÂ get your weekly groceries. A walkable neighborhood is a place where you can walk to the local bank, community center, church, or pharmacy. You can leave the car at home when you go to a movie or decide to eat out at a restaurant.
Why are walkable neighborhoods a good thing? A recent study has found that people living in a neighborhood where they can walk to stores and other amenities have a much lower risk for becoming obese or getting diabetes. In contrast, people who live in neighborhoods where getting in the car is a necessity even to grab a quart of milk tend to have more problems with weight control and blood sugar control.
Researchers from the study found that while physical activity and healthy eating are important preventative factors in reducing the incidence of obesity and diabetes, a personâs physical environment also plays an important role in reducing the risk for these two potentially harmful conditions.
For their study, the research team looked at the health of residents, the impact of residential density, and the nearness of walkable destinations. Both residential density (amenities, stores, services and residential dwellings covering a relatively small area) and the nearness of walkable destinations separately predicted the health of a community. However, both factors together provided additional results that the researchers used to make some interesting conclusions.
Study results showed that people who live in densely populated neighborhoods that are more amenable to walking are two times more likely to bicycle, take transit, or walk. In comparison, people who live in sparsely populated neighborhoods are much more likely to drive or own a car. As a result, those living in areas where there were fewer stores and other services within a ten-minute walk were 50% more likely to develop diabetes compared to residents living in densely populated neighborhoods.
This effect was most pronounced for new immigrants. In this Canadian study, the researchers found that new immigrants living in neighborhoods with poorly connected streets and low density housing are more at risk for obesity-related conditions like diabetes during their first ten years of residency.
If youâre planning a move in the next few months, consider the results of this study. Look for a neighborhood that allows you to get out and walk instead of getting in the car. The more you can walk, the more likely you are to keep your weight in check and avoid type 2 diabetes. Not only will your physical health benefit, your mental health will too. Walking has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and relieve depression.
âLiving in Densely Populated Neighborhoods Can Actually Decrease Risk of Diabetes, Obesity,â Science Daily web site, Jan. 15, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115172824.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fhealth_medicine+(ScienceDaily%3A+Health+%26+Medicine+News), last accessed Jan. 21, 2014.
Glazier, R.H., et al., âDensity, Destinations or Both? A Comparison of Measures of Walkability in Relation to Transportation Behaviors. Obesity and Diabetes in Toronto, Canada,âÂ PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e85295
âRisk of Developing Diabetes Higher in Neighborhoods That Aren’t Walk-Friendly,â ScienceDaily web site, Sep. 17, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917152105.htm, last accessed Jan. 22, 2014.