Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Does sprawl make people fat
Science news asks: Does sprawl make people fat? and Could smart urban design keep people fit and trim?
"As scientists investigate the relationship between sprawl and obesity, a compact style of city development sometimes called smart growth might become a tool in the fight for the nation's health. However, University of Toronto economist Matthew Turner charges that "a lot of people out there don't like urban sprawl, and those people are trying to hijack the obesity epidemic to further the smart-growth agenda [and] change how cities look."
For decades, housing and population growth in U.S. suburban areas have outpaced those in city centers. Shifts in commuting patterns reflect the trend toward people residing at a sizable distance from where they work, shop, and play. According to U.S. Census data, the average commute lengthened from 22.4 minutes to 25.1 minutes between 1990 and 2000, and the proportion of workers walking or biking to work dropped by one-quarter.
TIGHT FIT. Densely built urban areas such as Vancouver's downtown may encourage pedestrian traffic and promote physical activity. In contrast, cities of low density, where people depend on cars to get to stores and other facilities, seem to favor obesity.
A few communities buck the national trend. For example, Frank says, "there is a great deal of new development in Atlanta that is walkable."
Weighing In on City Planning
Could smart urban design keep people fit and trim?
Science News, Week of Jan. 20, 2007; Vol. 171, No. 3 , p. 43
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