‘Walkable’ neighborhoods linked to less obesity, diabetes

Adults may be less likely to develop diabetes and obesity if they live in “walkable” neighborhoods with access to parks and other outdoor activities, according to a study published Thursday in the Endocrine Society’s journal, Endocrine Reviews.

In the U.S., more than 11% of the population has diabetes, and more than 40% of adults are obese. To address these dual epidemics, researchers and policymakers have been looking for an effective way to promote healthy lifestyles at a population level, the study reports.

Researchers looked at several studies on the built environment — such as neighborhoods, parks, bike paths, restaurants and public transportation — and its effects on public health and discovered that cities and neighborhoods that are walkable and activity-friendly are linked to lower obesity and diabetes rates.

They discovered that adults living in highly walkable neighborhoods had a 10% lower obesity rate than those living in low walkability areas, and that people living in low versus high walkability areas had a 30% to 50% higher risk of developing diabetes.

“The built environment can influence physical activity levels by promoting active forms of transportation, such as walking and cycling over passive ones, such as car use,” co-author Dr. Gillian L. Booth said.

Researchers noted that air pollution and high concentrations of fast-food restaurants can increase the risk for diabetes and can substantially reduce the benefits of living in a walkable neighborhood.

“We need policies that promote healthier eating habits and opportunities to engage in active forms of transportation,” Booth said.

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