Despite targeted efforts to reduce obesity through diet and exercise, these rates continue to rise. A new study from Ontario, Canada found that obesity and diabetes rates were lower in more walkable neighborhoods compared to less walkable neighborhoods, where they saw an increase in these rates/A pesar de los esfuerzos por reducir la obesidad con dieta y ejercicio, las tasas de población afectada por esta condición siguen creciendo. Un nuevo estudio de expertos de Ontario (Canadá), muestra que los barrios en los que hay más espacios para caminar son también los que menos tasas de obesidad tienen, y viceversa.
Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto studied almost 9,000 neighborhoods in Southern Ontario looking at walkability scores, along with government health data and survey results during a twelve-year period. They examined whether neighborhoods that were more walkable experienced a slower increase in obesity and diabetes compared to less walkable neighborhoods.
Gillian L. Booth, M.D., of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, and colleagues examined whether urban neighborhoods that are more walkable are associated with a slower increase in overweight, obesity, and diabetes than less walkable neighborhoods. The researchers used annual provincial health care (n = 3 million per year) and biennial Canadian Community Health Survey (n = 5,500 per cycle) data for adults (30-64 years) living in Southern Ontario cities. Neighborhood walkability was derived from a validated index, which included 4 equally weighted components: population density, residential density, walkable destinations (number of retail stores, services [e.g., libraries, banks, community centers], and schools within a 10-minute walk), and street connectivity. Neighborhoods were ranked and classified into quintiles from lowest (quintile 1) to highest (quintile 5) walkability.
There were 8,777 neighborhoods included in the study. In 2001, the adjusted prevalence of overweight and obesity was lower in quintile 5 vs quintile 1 (43 percent vs 54 percent). Between 2001 and 2012, the prevalence increased in less walkable neighborhoods, while the prevalence did not significantly change in areas of higher walkability. In 2001, the adjusted diabetes incidence was lower in quintile 5 than other quintiles and declined by 2012. In contrast, diabetes incidence did not change significantly in less walkable areas.
Rates of walking or cycling and public transit use were significantly higher, and that of car use lower in quintile 5 vs quintile 1 at each time point, although daily walking and cycling frequencies increased only modestly from 2001 to 2011 in highly walkable areas. Leisure-time physical activity, diet, and smoking patterns did not vary by walkability and were relatively stable over time.
The authors note that the “ecologic nature of these findings and the lack of evidence that more walkable urban neighborhood design was associated with increased physical activity suggest that further research is necessary to assess whether the observed associations are causal.”