Currently viewing the tag: "Health"

It is commonly understood that almost every transit trip  starts as a walking trip. With that in mind, it seems logical that those who take transit are more likely to walk more than those who don’t. It is also commonly understood that those who walk more, are healthier. So if I remember my 8th grade math correctly (which I probably don’t), the transitive property would state that public transit users are healthier than non-transit users.

Mathematics aside, a recent study from the University of British Columbia states that such an assumption is not only true, but that transit users are three times more likely to meet basic fitness guidelines than those who don’t.

According to the study, people who drove the most were the least likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity.

“The idea of needing to go to the gym to get your daily dose of exercise is a misperception,” says Frank, the J. Armand Bombardier Chairholder in Sustainable Transportation and a researcher at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. “These short walks throughout our day are historically how we have gotten our activity. Unfortunately, we’ve engineered this activity out of our daily lives.”

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?  Frank goes on to say:

“You don’t necessarily have to rebuild communities or make major investments in infrastructure to promote public health,” he says. “There are things we can do in the interim, such as encourage people to drive less, and adapt their lifestyles which will get people more physically active and generate fewer greenhouse gasses.”

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Too often our society seems to overlook one of our most important modes of transportation- our own two legs. A new website, Walk Score, aims to change our dependence back to our own legs for personal mobility and seeks to help homebuyers find homes with many destinations within walking distance.

The premise is simple, you enter an address and the system characterizes the neighborhood on a 0-100 scale based on how many destinations are within a reasonable (less than 1 mile) walking distance. Essentially any ranking below 25 is is impossible to walk around while scores above 90 signify dense easily accessible neighborhoods. The website takes schools, restaurants, grocery stores, shops, parks, and libraries among other items into consideration when calculating the neighborhoods walk score.

Walk score allows people to quickly find homes in areas where car ownership let alone full dependence on a vehicle is not a requirement. In playing around with the program for a little while you’ll quickly see the disparity between automobile based/designed sprawl areas and true urban neighborhoods. The importance of walking to destinations daily cannot be emphasized enough from a planning perspective or as new research shows as a matter of your health.

President Bush’s Crawford Ranch somehow attained the dubious zero rating. Let us know how your neighborhood compares…

Congratulations, Miami, you’ve just been honored by another dubious countdown. Forbes magazine recently came out with a list of the Top 20 Sedentary Cities in America, and Miami sits right at number 10. According to Forbes, was collected on body mass index (BMI), physical inactivity, and tv watching habits for America’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. Data for BMI and inactivity was primarily collected from the Center for Disease Control, while Neilsen data was used to determine hours spent watching television.

More specifically, Miami came in fifth with an average of 35 hours of television watched per week. If that isn’t bad enough, 60% of residents are obese or overweight. Really no surprise here - this is what you get when you live in sprawl. Let’s take a look at the the other cities and see if there is a prevailing theme here:

1) Memphis
2) New Orleans
3) Las Vegas
4) Detroit
5) Birmingham
6) Louisville
7) San Antonio
8) Jacksonville
9) Nashville
10) Miami
11) Houston
12) Tampa
13) San Diego
14) Pittsburgh
15) Oklahoma City
16) Indianapolis
17) Atlanta
18) Richmond
19) Cleveland
20) Philadelphia

Well, in case you didn’t notice, most of these metros are located in the Sunbelt/South and are famous for their sprawling/auto-centric growth patterns (especially the Top 17). Richmond, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philly have all been hit hard by out-migration to the suburbs. Plus, these cities aren’t exactly famous for their healthy diets. Though it’s fairly obvious, there is a fast-growing body of studies addressing the link between land use and obesity/inactivity. Low density sprawl isn’t just bad because it’s unsustainable and costly - it’s killing us in our waistlines and hearts.

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