Every move is a good move! The association between the built environment and physical activity
October 09, 2014
CoHeaRT's doctorate student Danijela Gasevic recently gave a talk at the University of Texas at Arlington about the importance of designing our cities to be more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. The presentation is available in full through UT Arlington's website.
Out of interest, we compared walk scores for Vancouver (Danijela's place of residence), nearby Abbotsford, BC, and Arlington, Texas, where the talk was presented:
- Vancouver walk score: 78 / 100 - very walkable
- Abbotsford walk score: 39 / 100 - car-dependent
- Arlington walk score: 35 / 100 - car-dependent, and the 35th more walkable large city in the United States
There is growing recognition that the way cities are built, the built environment, can positively or negatively affect our health and health-related behaviours, such as physical activity. Physical activity reduces incidence of, and mortality from, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer such as colon and breast cancers; it reduces rates of fall incidences, helps in the treatment of patients with sleep disorders, and contributes positively to a general sense of well-being and a positive frame of mind.
Despite the known benefits of physical activity, 31% of adults globally are insufficiently active. Physical inactivity has been regarded as a public health crisis and increasing physical activity is a global public health priority. Historically, the main approach to increasing physical activity was to advise individuals to increase personal physical activity levels, but it has since been recognized that, rather than targeting individuals or small groups, physical activity interventions should be aimed at large groups of people or populations so as to bring about a population wide-change.
One of the ways to increase physical activity at the population level is by restructuring the environments in which physical activity takes place. In this talk, Danijela discusses built environment features linked to physical activity and outlines potential environmental strategies to promote physical activity.