People who live in 'walkable' neighborhoods are less prone to diabetes, research suggests

If you live in a neighborhood that's conducive to walking, your chances of becoming obese or developing diabetes are substantially lower than if you live in an auto-dependent town or city, new research reveals.

A pair of studies presented at the American Diabetes Association's 74th Scientific Sessions found that people living in walkable areas had a 13 percent lower incidence of diabetes over 10 years than people in less walkable neighborhoods. Diabetes rates dropped lower and lower the more walkable the neighborhood was, the studies reported.

"How we build our cities matters in terms of our overall health," said lead researcher Gillian Booth, MD, Endocrinologist and Research Scientist at St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Toronto. "This is one piece of a puzzle that we can potentially do something about. 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."

Accessibility, exercise, and convenience

Obesity was also lowest in the most walkable neighborhoods, which researchers linked to a higher rate of biking and walking combined with less driving.

To determine a neighborhood's walkability, researchers accounted for sprawl, interconnectivity among streets and the number of local stores or services within walking distance.

A Canadian study published earlier this year found that if your neighborhood isn't conducive to walking, you're about 33 percent more likely to develop diabetes.

Booth concluded that solving the obesity problem "will require both policy changes as well as individual strategies. We have to take a more population-based approach to the problem, given the environment we live in."

Source: American Diabetes Association

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