"A new $2.8 million effort, partnering public and private funding agencies, will examine how better community design encourages people to be more physically active in their daily lives. Researchers will identify how our built environment contributes to obesity and how environmental changes can combat a growing public health problem," according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health.
"We'd like to determine if simple changes in the built environment and in individual behavior can enhance physical activity and reduce obesity for residents," said Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences , which is the public agency funding the effort. "Local municipalities could then look at the results and determine if modifying the built environment might affect the public's health and reduce health care costs."
Makes sense. If you not only can drive everywhere, but must drive everywhere, because you live in a pedestrian-hostile environment, clearly you're going to get much less incidental activity week in and week out, than if you live someplace where it's enticing to walk from place to place.