August 24, 2005

Walkable, Bike-able Communities Help Cut Obesity Rates

Obesity in America "is exacerbated by the lack of significant policies addressing community design issues -- such as sidewalks and suburban sprawl ," according to a report released this week by Trust for America's Health:

Communities and government must stress smarter community design, including requiring the evaluation of the health impact of new building efforts and updating existing development and encouraging design that promotes and integrates space for physical activity, such as recreational space, sidewalks, public transportation, and safe staircases, and the inclusion of food shopping venues in new development.

Oregon was the only state where obesity rates didn't rise over the past year, according to the report.

The Associated Press notes that "what makes Oregon different is its emphasis on urban design, which encourages outdoor activities like biking to work, the study's authors said." Ten percent of Portland, Ore's resident bicycle to work, thanks to a network of bike paths throughout the city.

"The solution to obesity is not that everyone should run a marathon," Michael Earls, co-author of the study, told AP. "It's the little things that begin to make a dent in the problem, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or riding your bike to work."

If a city or town is built in such a way that it forces residents to drive long distances, instead of walking or cycling, then physical activity becomes something that has to be planned rather than an activity which can be woven into the fabric of everyday life, he said.

Obesity expert Tom Farley, the author of "Prescription for a Healthy Nation," said research in the field has moved away from the notion of personal responsibility to the idea of creating environments that foster healthy living.

Thanks to Tim Lee for the link.

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