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Living In 'Walkable' Area May Reduce Diabetes, Obesity Risk

Canadian researchers say moving to an area friendlier to foot traffic can cut some health rusks.
Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 17, 2014

We all know there's significant healthy benefits from walking: it tones the body, makes the heart strong, lowers disease risk... the list goes on. (Via Flickr / Len Matthews)

But, a lot of times the big challenge is either a) finding the time to get out the front door, or b) finding a good place to take a stroll. Well, a new study from Canada says some places have the best of both.

Research published in the journal PLOS One found people who live in "walkable" neighborhoods – that is, where the essentials are all in walking distance – have lower obesity rates and are less likely to have diabetes than people who live in areas dependent on cars to get around. (Via YouTube / videofilmik)

The reason? Researchers believe it's because the surrounding environment promotes walking.

The study tracked Toronto residents over a 10-year period and found people in walkable areas were, according to HealthDay, three times more likely use their own two feet or a bicycle's two wheels to get from point A to point B and were half as likely to rely on a car. (Via YouTube / Vivre Au Canada.tv, Alain Grandemange)

The factors that make an area "walkable" are more typical of major cities: neighborhoods are less spread out, streets are all grid-like and there are more places like shops, schools and rec centers you can get to by foot. (Via YouTube / John Wood, WNBC)

Lead researcher Dr. Gillian Booth said, "How we build our cities matters in terms of our overall health. ... As a society, we have engineered physical activity out of our lives. Every opportunity to walk, to get outside, to go to the corner store or walk our children to school can have a big impact on our risk for diabetes and becoming overweight." (Via Medical Daily)

Apparently, Canadian researchers have been following the footsteps of walker-friendly neighborhoods for awhile.

Back in 2012, researchers found immigrants who moved to Toronto's least walkable areas were "more than 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes." (Via The Atlantic)

So, taking this a step further, which were the most "walkable" cities in the U.S?

Smart Growth America, in tandem with George Washington University, published this study ranking America's cities and – to no real surprise – found Boston, New York City and Washington D.C. gained the most strides.