Living in the suburbs could be affecting your weight, study shows
Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014 8:58AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 15, 2014 10:19AM EST
The type of neighbourhood you live in could be impacting your weight and health, according to a new study.
Researchers have found that the "walkability" of a neighbourhood is linked to the rate of obesity and diabetes in the area – with individuals who live in areas where they're highly dependent on cars being up to one-third more likely to develop the health conditions.
"It's no secret that obesity rates have been climbing and it's partly because we're sedentary," says Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital and the study's lead author.
Booth told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday that a number of suburban neighbourhoods in the Greater Toronto Area are often designed in a way that discourages walking.
She said these areas are typically sparsely populated and don't have well-connected streets.
Often, suburban neighbourhoods also have zoning bylaws in place that don’t allow for retail stores or services to be located within the residential areas, she added.
"In these areas, people are twice as likely to drive and much less likely to walk or take transit," Booth said.
The study, published in the online journal PLOS ONE on Tuesday, examined the different neighbourhoods within Toronto, and indexed each area based on density, the number of retail and service destinations within a 10-minute walk, and street connectivity.
Areas with the highest density and greatest number of destinations within walking distance were home to residents who were most likely to walk, bike or take transit, and had the lowest rate of diabetes.
Booth said she hopes urban planners and policy makers keep the study in mind when designing new neighbourhoods.
"We've pretty much engineered physical activity out of our lives," she said. "We make choices every day to use escalators instead of stairs, or drive when we could walk.
"I think people have to make more opportunities during their day, whether at work or home, to move more."