Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Urban Sprawl May be Harmful to Your Health

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

Walking, which has been called the best exercise investment, can be helped or hampered by where you live. While it costs nothing, can be done anywhere at anytime, and requires no special equipment — except, perhaps, for a good pair of sturdy shoes — your environs could be less than walking friendly.

If you live in a sprawling suburban community, you’re more likely to weigh more, have higher blood pressure, and walk less than residents of more compact counties, according to the American Journal of Health Promotion. A research team headed by Dr. Reid Ewing of the National Center for Smart Growth, University of Maryland, cites a strong association between your health and urban environment, which is of serious concern to older residents.

After accounting for such personal variables as age and education, the researchers found residents of the most compact — you might consider the word “congested” here — counties weighed more than five pounds less and walked almost 1 1/2 hours more a month than people living in counties that are more sprawling — you might consider the word “open” here. The team gathered information from more than 200,000 people living in almost 450 counties in more than 80 metropolitan regions. The areas were graded on their levels of sprawl based on factors such as the density of its residential neighborhoods, connections between roads, and the physical separation of homes, shops and workplaces.

“Poor accessibility is the common denominator of urban sprawl,” Ewing said. “Nothing is within easy walking distance of anything else.” Among the most-compact counties were the New York City boroughs, San Francisco County, and Hudson County in New Jersey. Those with the highest level of sprawl included Geauga County in the Cleveland area, and Goochland County in the Richmond, Va., region.

Those who said they had safe, convenient places to walk or to get other forms or exercise were most likely to be physically active, according to  a team of Georgia Department of Human Resources researchers. Access to indoor and outdoor exercise areas was also an important factor for residents of North Carolina communities to attain daily guidelines for physical activity.

Increasing the number of desirable location destinations within a 20-minute-walk radius might encourage older women — the least active Americans — to exercise, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. Older women in the Pittsburgh region who lived within walking distance of a biking or walking trail, park, or department, discount or hardware store logged significantly more walking time than those who did not have similar facilities nearby, said researcher Wendy King. “Adding businesses or recreational facilities to residential areas may be effective (to boost exercise levels among older women),” she said.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Health

Tagged with , , ,

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