The western world is getting fatter. It’s hard to ignore the spiralling rates of obesity in developed countries such as the UK and US, where more than one in four of us is now clinically obese. But perhaps even more alarming is the speed at which our children are becoming dangerously fat. More than one-third of children in the UK are now either obese or overweight and in the US the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Being an obese child doesn’t just mean you might get picked on at school, it also significantly increases your likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes and having a stroke when you are older.
There is an ongoing discussion among academics as to the exact causes of this very real obesity crisis. This includes the usual argument of how much nature versus nurture creates childhood obesity. Now a new study has shown that living in a walkable neighbourhood has an important effect on whether a child is obese or not.
There’s been plenty of research into how walkable streets and neighbourhoods get more people walking. However what we’re less sure about is: Who are the people that choose to walk more?
In an attempt to answer this question, Transport for London have released new research with some interesting findings. By combining a large travel survey with Londoners demographic data, the study attempted to identify which types of people walk more as part of their everyday lifestyle.
Walking is the simplest, cheapest and easiest way of getting around. In many big congested cities, its also the quickest way to move. However the simplicity of walking can sometimes make it difficult to ‘sell’ as a concept to government, business and the general public.
You see the problem is, that walking doesn’t really require any extra technology or equipment. ‘But where’s the problem in that?’ I hear you say. For many of us, that’s exactly why we like walking and the idea of walkable cities. However in our gadget-obsessed world, this lack of ‘hardware’ is often a problem. Perhaps the most worrying part of this is that politicians seem to be the most technology-obsessed of everyone, yet they hold most of the funding for walkability.
A healthy city is a walking city. Western cities in Britain and the US are haemorrhaging cash because of a lack of physical activity. Our automated lives have led to an obesity crisis which is costing us billions of pounds a year in health care costs. For instance the estimated cost of physical inactivity and obesity in England is over £10 billion a year (that’s 10% of the entire NHS budget!).