Research finds ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods have healthier residents

ABOVE: New research has some eye-opening information on how your health could depend on the "walkability" of your neighborhood. John Hua has more on the link and how to improve your odds.

New research shows people living in Metro Vancouver’s most ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods are 31 per cent less likely to be overweight than those living in car-dependent areas.

“Risk of obesity and diabetes are increasingly attributed to environmental factors, however limited attention has been paid to the impact of physical features of a neighbourhood,” says Salman Klar, an epidemiologist for the Fraser Health Authority.

The study looked at the link between neighbourhood walkability and body mass index (BMI), as a key risk factor for Type 2 diabetes in Metro Vancouver.

Researchers used data from My Health My Community­, which is a non-profit partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and the eHealth Strategy Office.

Dr. Jat Sandhu, the principal investigator for My Health My Community, says having walkable neighbourhoods is very important for healthy life-styles. “Municipal planners should view access to walkable neighbourhoods as physical activity resources for the community.”

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The study used an online tool called Walk Score, which rates the neighbourhoods based on how easy it is to do daily tasks on foot and how accessible things are around the area. Researchers paired this with the answers of more than 22,000 people who participated in the My Health My Community survey.

Below is a map with some Metro Vancouver’s cities and neighbourhoods marked from red (lowest scores) to deep green (highest scores). Click on the markers to find their ‘walkable’ score:


To look for your neighbourhood score, search the address here

“We have emphasized the personal life-style choices in the risk of diabetes and obesity but people have not appreciated that the neighbourhood design can also impact the risk of obesity and diabetes,” says Dr. Jan Hux from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Neighbourhoods without sidewalks or with few crossing intersections or places of interest, like new coffee shops, are an example of non-walkable areas. Therefore, Hux explains, downtown neighbourhoods tend to be more walkable.

Hux says diabetes is a growing epidemic internationally; in Canada alone more than 3.3 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes. Hux says that number has more than doubled in the past 15 years, and continues to grow, with a new person being diagnosed every three minutes.

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The research was presented during Monday’s World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver.

WATCH: Delegates gathering in Vancouver today for the World Diabetes Congress are being presented with the findings of a new study on obesity. Researchers suggest that if you live in car-dependent suburbs this could be affecting your weight and your health. Dr. Jan Hux joins Gobal News with more.

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