It is not secret that there is a growing problem with our growing waistlines. Professor Wesley Marshall from CU Denver decided to find how much of an impact walking had on obesity and other diseases. Professor Marshall said that “While it is possible to lead an active, healthy lifestyle in most any type of neighborhood, our findings suggest that people living in more compact cities do tend to have better health outcomes”. The study, published in the Journal of Transport & Health, analyzed the street network configuration of 24 California cities and used the frequency of street intersections, as a measure of urban compactness. He then used data of 50,000 adults from the years 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009, to see how intersection designs affected the rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease. He found that with more intersections, the obesity levels in those neighborhoods was lower, and obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and disease rates across the board were also lower.
As discussed in the works of Lawrence Frank, Peter Engelke, and Thomas Schmid, it is a problem that our society has essentially eliminated our ability to stay fit with the invention and implementation of the automobile. Although it is not the single factor that has caused the alarmingly fast ascent of obesity rates and heart disease, the car is something that needs to be dealt with. The way this can be dealt with, as seen in Denver, is through influencing our behaviors. The authors talk about how exercising is such a key part of staying fit and warding off disease and obesity. It however can be too much to for some to go to the gym or go running every day. That simply isn’t a one plan fits all approach that will get the desired results. Instead, as the authors suggest, governments should be encouraging a more moderate strategy that works better for the whole populace. This includes the idea of suggesting thirty minutes of moderate activity as compared to high intensity exercise that some wouldn’t be able to do, nor would want to do. Now by looking at what this study in Denver is telling us, it shows a more universal way to get more people to exercise. It shows that by simply setting up cities in a manner that promotes more walking, you will get more healthy people in the long run.
Planning departments need to make an effort to biologically link the city streets to people that use them. By planning streets that are attractive and safe, it will no doubt draw more people than walking down a boring stretch of concrete or cautiously walking on the side of road that has no sidewalk at all. Steps can be taken to make car travel less appealing. This can be done through by creating calming zones which constrict carriage lanes making the driver drive slower. With a slower commute and the vibrant street life outside the car, people may want to stop driving and join in the active movement. With so many people currently living in the world’s cities, and with many more coming, the planners of present and future truly have the ability to create a healthier world.
Larice, Michael, and Elizabeth Macdonald. “Introduction, Physical Activity and Public Health, and Urban Design Characteristics.” The Urban Design Reader. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013. N. pag. Print.