New research suggests that people who live in “walkable” neighborhoods weigh about 6-10 pounds less than those who live in pedestrian-unfriendly communities. Scientists at the University of Utah calculated the body mass index (BMI) of about half a million Salt Lake county residents from a state drivers license database. They then compared the “pedestrian friendliness” of the zip codes associated with the various BMIs.
They found that people who live in more densely populated zip codes (designed to be more friendly to pedestrians) tended to have lower BMIs. This research has not yet been published, so I can’t comment on the details of the study. However, it makes intuitive sense that walking more can make people lighter on their feet.
The study authors mentioned that city planners used to design communities with pedestrian activities in mind, but since the 1950’s this practice has become less common. Many new housing developments are built around the assumption that vehicles are the main form of transportation, making that a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Earlier this year I participated in an 8 week walking program promoted by the Department of Health and Human Services. At their recommendation, I purchased a pedometer with a goal of achieving 10,000 steps per day. It was an eye-opening experience for me (left to my own devices, I naturally walked about 2000 steps per day – and I don’t own a car). Americans simply don’t get the amount of exercise that they need to be healthy. We are seeing the result of our sedentary lifestyle in our country’s increasing overweight and obesity rates.
All I can say is that I’m struggling along with the rest of us – doing what I can to increase my activity level and walk as much as possible. I’m lucky to live in an area where walking is fun and easy to do. I have the utmost sympathy for those who are striving to become more active against the odds. Why not join my weight loss group and we can commiserate? There are over 2600 people in there, encouraging one another to get fit! Don’t let your zipcode determine your destiny.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.