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Design neighbourhoods that promote physical activity to reduce obesity, researchers say

Ensuring people have access to parks and cycling routes could help to reduce rates of obesity and diabetes, a study has shown.

Research into people’s local built environment found that those who live in ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods who have access to nearby outdoor activities are more active. They are also less likely to suffer from obesity or diabetes.

One of the study authors, Dr Gillian Booth from the University of Toronto, said: “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.

“Shifting the transportation choices of local residents may mean that more members of the population can participate in physical activity during their daily routine without structured exercise programs.”

Researchers looked at one study of nearly 33,000 people which found that rates of obesity among people living in ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods was 43% compared to rates of 53% in less ‘walkable’ areas.

Another study of 1.1 million people found that rates of pre-diabetes was 20% higher among those living in less ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods, while a different study of 1.6 million people found that the likelihood of developing diabetes was 30% to 50% higher for those living in a low ‘walkable’ area.

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

“Designing neighbourhoods that have safe and effective public transit options, cycling infrastructure and walking paths may reduce traffic related pollution.”

The study has been published in Endocrine Reviews.

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