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Tue, Sep-13-05, 03:27
Researchers Find No Obesity, Sprawl Link Mon Sep 12, 9:12 PM ET

A growing chorus of planners, health officials and others has said that spread-out suburbs discourage walking and might encourage obesity.

But two Oregon State University researchers have concluded there is little connection between urban sprawl and the expanding waistlines of Americans.

Professors Andrew Plantinga and Stephanie Bernell say people who are overweight and sedentary tend to gravitate toward neighborhoods with fewer opportunities for walking because it's not something they care about.

"We found very little evidence that it was the physical environment causing obesity," Plantinga said. "Rather, it seemed to be more about how people choose the types of neighborhoods to live in."

The study by Plantinga, a professor of agriculture and resource economics, and Bernell, who works in the OSU department of public health, looked at the relationship between urban sprawl and neighborhood choice based on weight, measured as body mass index or BMI. It was published in the Journal of Regional Science.

The researchers found that fit people choose to live in neighborhoods that allow them to walk to work or shop and fat people pick places where they need a car.

The study was adjusted to eliminate differences due to income and other factors.

Plantinga said the studies don't mean mixed-use development is a bad idea. Reducing sprawl has other benefits, such as reduced traffic and fuel use, he said.

"I think there are lots of really good reasons why you might want to pursue smart growth policies," Plantinga said. "But I think that we have to be careful in thinking that smart growth can deliver health benefits, as people have been suggesting. The public health benefits may in fact be very limited."


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com


Tue, Sep-13-05, 03:29
It's the carbs!

Tue, Sep-13-05, 06:12
I, personally, would walk or bike a LOT more if there was anything within walking or biking distance. When I lived in the city, even in the suburbs, I was always walking or biking to the store/work/school etc.

Tue, Sep-13-05, 07:23
It's related to obesity in that in a sprawling suburb -- especially one of a major urban area -- there isn't any day to day walking in your life. In dense urban areas where it's very expensive to even park a car, people just walk a mile or two to get where they're going because it's easier than driving.

Translate that to a large suburban area. You can't walk anyplace. Your job is 40 miles away. Your stores are 5-10 miles away. You just walk more in an urban environment.

I live in a suburb of a medium sized city. I drive to work (it's 8 miles and I have to pick up the kiddo). If I didn't have to pick her up, I'd consider biking it sometimes. Even then, though, no shower facilities makes that rough on the co-workers. :)

At least at 8 miles, $3 a gallon gasoline isn't kicking my butt. People who have those long, suburban to urban commutes must be getting hammered, so there's another benefit.