In a study from Boston University, scientists found that people who lived in walkable neighborhoods were more likely to be physically active and have lower BMIs.
They examined perceived neighborhood walkability, physical activity, and obesity indicators (BMI) on a national level.
Three out of four adults do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
In the study, the team examined how neighborhood walkability may influence physical activity and obesity among adults in the US.
They used demographic and health-related data from a nationally representative survey that gathers information on illness, disability, chronic impairments, health insurance, healthcare access, and health services use in 2020, among US adults ages 18 and older.
The team found that people in highly walkable neighborhoods were more likely to engage in adequate physical activity, walk near their home, and have a lower body mass index (BMI)—an established indicator of obesity—compared to people in low-walkability neighborhoods.
Adults who live in walkable neighborhoods were 1.5 times more likely to engage in adequate levels of physical activity, and 0.76 times less likely to have obesity, compared to adults living in neighborhoods with low walkability.
However, the association between perceived walkability and BMI levels differed among certain racial/ethnic groups.
Among White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian participants, BMI levels decreased as their perception of their neighborhood walkability increased.
But among American Indian/Alaska Native and multiracial/other-race adults, BMI levels increased as perceptions of neighborhood walkability increased.
The findings showed d that the link between perceived walkability and physical activity differed by race and ethnicity.
The study suggests that a combination of approaches—such as improving pedestrian and public transit infrastructure, implementing policies that slow traffic, enhancing park quality, and community programming—are needed to promote walkability and well-being.
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The study was conducted by Dr. Monica Wang et al and published in the journal Obesity.
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