Walkability of neighbourhoods linked to obesity, study reports

People living in areas which encourage walking are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, research has found.
A 12-year Canadian study has suggested the ‘walkability’ of a neighbourhood is linked to people’s chances of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes.
Researchers at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, compared living in more walkable urban areas with less walkable areas for overweight, obesity, and diabetes.
Neighborhood walkability was derived from a validated index, which included population density, residential density, walkable destinations, including the number of retail stores, services, libraries, banks, community centres as well as schools within a 10-minute walk. Almost 9,000 residential areas were ranked on walkability.
The researchers used annual surveys looking at people aged between 30 and 64 years living in Southern Ontario cities.
Urban neighbourhoods in Ontario, Canada, that were characterised by more walkable design were associated with decreased rates of type 2 diabetes between 2001 and 2012, according to the study published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dr Jan Hux, of the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), said: “The risk of a new case of diabetes fell by almost 20 per cent in those really walkable neighbourhoods. While in the least walk-able neighbourhoods the risk of diabetes stayed steady or even increased.
“What we’ve come to realise in the last decade is that environmental factors are really important in the risk of type 2 diabetes.”
The study team stressed the benefits of getting regular exercise for people with and without diabetes, which include improved blood glucose levels and blood pressure.

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