Rates of obesity and diabetes lower in walkable neighborhoods

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According to a new review by the Endocrine Society, people living in neighborhoods designed to encourage walking and biking, are less likely to be diagnosed with obesity and diabetes.

The paper was published in the Endocrine Reviews and coauthored by Gillian L. Booth, MD, MSc, and Nicholas Howell, MD, PhD. The scientists began their paper with discussing the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, explaining that rates of both conditions are increasing worldwide. In their review, Booth and Howell set out to study the connection between built environments and rates of diabetes and obesity.

The authors researched several studies on built environments and how they influence the health of people living in them. They defined built environments as manmade areas where people live, work, and shop such as parks, buildings, paths, and public transportation. These environments, according to the review, impact human physical activity.

Through their research, Booth and Howell determined that those living in less walkable areas had a significantly increased of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. In their paper, the authors suggested changing the design of these environments to promote a more active lifestyle could help prevent diabetes and obesity and may help the environment as well.

“We need policies that promote healthier eating habits and opportunities to engage in active forms of transportation,” said Booth in a statement. “Designing neighborhoods that have safe and effective public transit options, cycling infrastructure, and walking paths may reduce traffic related pollution.”

Booth and Howell argue built environments that encourage walking and biking can reduce the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. As rates of both conditions continue to rise at dangerous rates, the paper offers a straightforward way to mitigate the problem.