A new decade-long study from the University of Melbourne has found that when the overall walkability of an area is increased, simply put, people walk more, even well after the “novelty” may have worn off, and their health and wellbeing is improved as a result. This is the first study to provide long-term evidence of the effect that local walkability has on the health of people.
The study shows that by providing greater access to parks, mass transit, bike paths, shops, and other services and recreation, the health of local residents can be significantly improved.
“The study demonstrates the potential of local infrastructure to support health-enhancing behaviours,” lead researcher Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Director of the McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing at the University of Melbourne, said.
“The study examined the impact of urban planning on active living in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. More than 1,400 participants building homes in new housing developments were surveyed before relocation to new homes and approximately 12 months later.”
The research showed, very clearly, “that for every local shop, residents’ physical activity increased an extra 5-6 minutes of walking per week. For every recreational facility available such as a park or beach, residents’ physical activity increased by an extra 21 minutes per week.”
This findings will be welcome in the fields of public health and urban design, as they provide clear evidence of the impact that well designed cities and urban areas can have on the health of their citizens
The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. - Ecclesiastes 3:19