Sidewalks Key Factor Influencing Physical Activity

A new study provides further evidence that incorporating sidewalks into existing neighborhoods is a practical and inexpensive way of encouraging people to exercise.

"No matter which country you are in, new research finds those who live in a city neighborhood are twice as likely to be physically active the those in the suburbs. According to a San Diego State University study published in this month's American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the main factor influencing physical activity around the world is accessibility to sidewalks.

Researchers looked at data from 11,541 survey participants in 11 countries, which included the United States, Lithuania, Brazil, Sweden and Japan. Those individuals who reported living in a city neighborhood with easy access to sidewalks were 15-50 percent more likely to get moderate-to vigorous activity at least five days a week for at least 30 minutes each day.

SDSU professor and lead author Jim Sallis said this is likely because sidewalks can be used for recreation like jogging and in-line skating as well as for transportation, in lieu of using a car or other means of transportation.

"Even in this group of culturally diverse countries, this one factor held consistent," Sallis said. "Many of these activity-friendly neighborhoods also had residential living within a close 10-15 minute walk to recreation facilities, shopping or mass transit stops."

Thanks to Gina Jacobs

Full Story: City Dwellers Worldwide Healthier than Suburban Counterparts



The "self-selection" red herring

Great bit of research!

The problem is that a lot of people ignore research like this by saying that the people who live in very urban areas (or even older inner-ring suburbs) with plenty of sidewalks have self-selected to live there because the walkable urban lifestyle is precisely what they were looking for. While there is a lot of truth to this, writing off the research ignores some very important points:

1. Having people walk more makes for healthier and safer communities, and we should be encouraging (not mandating) more people to "self-select" this type of lifestyle.
2. If people who enjoy walking move to walkable neighbourhoods with more sidewalks and things to walk to, then we need to build more areas like this so more people can experience it. If the area and the lifestyle are attractive, then more people will self-select to live in those areas and they will walk more and drive less.

A lot of what we're talking about is a culture change that is heavily influenced by the built environment. For the past 40 years we've built neighbourhoods that discourage walking, so the notion of walking is no longer part of our suburban culture. But if we build walkable neighbourhoods, the notion of walking instead of driving will slowly pick up, and it will simply become part of everyday life. It won't be an overnight change, but if walking becomes more attractive over time thanks to the built environment, we'll see a creeping in of pedestrian culture, and a creeping out of car culture.

yes, and no.

Good bit of research!!
I've always loved sidewalks for that very reason, plus they are the connecting glue between public streets and private(or public) places (land) ! Its that in between area!

Like what he said; however this idea of pedestrian culture and car culture is all depentent(and relitive) upon time, and space. Mainly in regards to space. If a community can utilize it space and plan accordingly, then potentially you will have many more people walking to/from civic/business areas; therefore people will potentially use an opportunity to walk instead of drive to get arrends done. However someone may typically walk during Spring-summer, but when late Fall-winter hits they may decline to walk due to weather extremes (especially in regards to the elderly).

Space.... the final frontier!

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