Does Your Neighborhood Encourage Obesity and Diabetes?
Common risk factor for obesity and diabetes
Many studies have linked obesity with a strong risk of developing diabetes. Each disease also has common risk factors including sedentary lifestyle. Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto examined whether urban neighborhoods that are more walkable were associated with less risk of being overweight, or developing obesity and diabetes compared to less walkable neighborhoods.
Study looks at urban cities and walkability factor
The researchers accessed healthcare records compiled annually as a well as a biennial Canadian Community Health Survey of individuals living in Southern Ontario cities. A “validated index” was used which used assessment factors – population density, residential density, walkable destinations (libraries, banks, community centers), schools within a ten minute walk from homes, and street connectivity. Neighborhoods were then ranked and classified from lowest to highest walkability based on the assessment factors. The study involved 8,777 neighborhoods.
Based on those rankings and a review of rates of obesity and diabetes, it was found that the more walkable the city, the lower the rates of individuals being overweight, obese or having diabetes. Clearly, if rates of obesity are lower, than one would expect diabetes rates to also be lower since the two conditions are strongly linked.
The findings should encourage efforts to make neighborhoods walkable
Urban cities that promote walking and biking do help to encourage more physical activity. Urban design and city health policies should reflect these findings by funding that creates easy walk and bike zones. Safety of course is another consideration, so even if you have the design structure that encourages outdoor walking, cycling and play, you have to have safe streets so people will take advantage and walk to work or school, or walk to do errands and play outdoors. The ability to accumulate minutes and hours of weekly physical activity does help to reduce the risk of becoming obese or developing diabetes.