Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Skinny on the Link Between Sprawl and Obesity

It seems pretty uncontroversial that regular walking is good for people. We are bipedal creatures, after all. Walking gets the heart pumping and doesn't strain us too much. It's a good form of exercise and it is free.

It is a short leap from that common sense proposition to the conclusion that built environments that are not conducive to walking will on average yield a less healthy populace than built environments where regular walking in the course of daily life is encouraged.

Indeed, researchers have been examining the public health implications of the sprawl development patterns that have predominated since World War II. Some have found suggestive casual links between sprawl and unhealthy life practices--e.g., sedentary existences and obesity.

There has been a vigorous counterattack--reminiscent of the attacks on those who have concluded that human activity is responsible for global warming--by those who charge that the researchers are anti-sprawl zealots just itching to build Le Corbusier style apartment blocks over all the picket fenced manses in the Olde Oak Glens areas of the country. There are also plenty of legitimate methodological issues involved in trying to design a rigorous study testing the link between sprawl and public health.

The debate is summarized here. Walk (or drive!) to your nearest library or bookstore and read up on the subject.

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