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Published on July 29th, 2008 | by Shirley Siluk Gregory


Walkable Neighborhoods Mean Fitter Residents

Infrogmation at Wikimedia Commons under a GNU Free Documentation license.)(This is another installment in this week’s “Walk This Way” series on walkable neighborhoods in the U.S.)

Here’s a shocker (not really): living in a walkable neighborhood reduces your chances of being overweight.

It should seem obvious, but a new study from the University of Utah has tracked the connection between walkable neighborhoods and weight statistically. The researchers found that the average guy living in a walkable neighborhood weighed 10 pounds less than his more car-dependent counterpart, while the average woman weighed six pounds less.

Demographer Ken Smith conducted the study with several other researchers at the University of Utah: Barbara Brown, Cathleen D. Zick, Jessie X. Fan, Lori Kowaleski-Jones and Ikuho Yamada. They based their conclusions on 2000 Census data and body mass index (BMI) measurements of nearly a half-million residents of Salt Lake City.

The study found the most notable differences in walkability between neighborhoods built before 1950 and those built afterward, when planners put a greater emphasis on accommodating car traffic.

“We have the opportunity, using evidence-based data on community design, to create neighborhoods that encourage less car driving, benefiting residents’ health and wallets and shrinking our own carbon footprint,” Smith said. “We expect these results mean that residents find walking more attractive and enjoyable where there are other walkers, a variety of destinations easily accessible by foot and pedestrian-friendly street networks. People want to walk when it’s pleasant, convenient and when there is a destination.”

It should seem so obvious, shouldn’t it?

Related Posts:

‘Walk This Way’ Week: How Pedestrian-Friendly is Your Town?

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About the Author

Shirley Siluk Gregory, a transplanted Chicagoan now living in Northwest Florida, represents the progressive half of Green Options' Red, Green and Blue segment. She holds a bachelor's degree in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University but graduated in 1984, just when the market for geologists was flatter than the Florida landscape. Just as well, though: she had little interest in spending her life either in a laboratory or, heaven forbid, an oil field. So, of course, she went into journalism. After extremely low-paying but fun and educational stints at several suburban Chicago weeklies and dailies, Shirley and her then-boyfriend/now-husband Scott found themselves displaced by a media buyout and spending the next several years working as freelancers. Among their credits: The Chicago Tribune, a publication for the manufactured-housing industry, and Web Hosting Magazine, a now-defunct publication that came and went with the dotcom era. Shirley's always been concerned about nature and conservation (and an avid pack-rat, as her family can attest to), but became even more rabidly interested in the environment primarily due to two factors: the growing signs that global warming was real and threatening, and the birth of her son, Noah, in 2003. Suddenly, the prospect of a world that might not be quite as habitable in 40 or 50 years took on a whole new, and personal, meaning. Living where she lives now also helped light the fire of Shirley's environmental awareness: her hometown was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and beaten up again by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. That, and the fact that she and her family were vacationing in New Orleans until the day before Katrina -- and spent 12 hours driving home for a trip that normally takes 3 -- has made Shirley deeply appreciate how fragile our lifestyles are, and how dependent they are on sound management of natural resources and sustainable living practices. That's why she's become a passionate reader and writer about all things green and sustainable.

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