With mounting evidence that the lifestyle promoted by car-oriented suburbia can lead to increased risk of obesity, the idea of people consciously moving to a healthy-oriented, walkable neighborhood isn't so far-fetched.
Walkable, urban neighborhoods are winning praise from public health advocates, who say they help people stay active and ward off obesity.
"But do you have to win the lottery and get an apartment [downtown] to experience environmentally induced dieting? Hardly. In fact, some Bay Area residents [have] discovered that their health improved when they moved out of the city -- to what might be characterized as a smart-growth hubs."
"For instance, Michael Dortch and his wife moved from San Francisco to downtown Santa Rosa. Whereas in the city 'almost everything I needed was within two blocks of our apartment ... (now) my bank and my favorite stores are each at least a half-mile from our home, where I also work.' Instead of going to the gym, he takes time out of his workday to go on walks. 'I feel better, work is a bit less stressful and I've lost about 25 pounds since we moved,' he says. 'This may change if I finally, at the age of 51, break down and get my driver's license, but I'm going to try really hard to keep walking anyway.'
Margaret Chau and her husband made a similar move, to Millbrae from San Francisco, after carefully researching places that were more walkable and had a pleasant commute. When they lived on the southeast edge of San Francisco near San Bruno Avenue, the couple felt more isolated. 'Plus, we usually had to drive around for 10 to 20 minutes for a parking spot,' Chau says, adding that her daily routines are far more pedestrian than they once were.
" "I'm now a quarter-mile from all my usual shopping places -- Trader Joe's, Peet's and a few other local groceries." Instead of her husband driving through the city to get to Caltrain, he rides his bike along a nature trail for about 11 miles."