People living nearby markets, public transport stops and public parks do more physical activity in their neighbourhood and take up 90 minutes more exercise per week, a study has found.
According to researchers, creating healthier cities is an important part of the public health response to the global disease burden of physical inactivity.
The four neighbourhood features, which were most strongly associated with increased physical activity, were — high residential density, number of intersections, number of public transport stops and number of parks within walking distance.
“Neighbourhoods with high residential density tend to have connected streets, shops and services meaning people will be more likely to walk to their local shops,” said lead study author James Sallis from University of California, US.
“Interestingly, distance to nearest transport stop was not associated with higher levels of physical activity, whereas the number of nearby transport stops was,” Sallis added in the paper published in the journal The Lancet.
This might mean that with more options, people are more likely to walk further to get to a transport stop that best meets their needs.
The study included 6,822 adults aged 18-66 and mapped out the neighbourhood features from the areas around the participants’ houses.
Physical activity was measured by using accelerometers worn around participants’ waists for a minimum of four days, recording movement every minute.
On average, participants did 37 minutes per day moderate to vigorous physical activity — equivalent to brisk walking or more.
The difference in physical activity between participants living in the most and least activity-friendly neighbourhoods ranged from 68-89 minutes per week, representing 45-59 percent of the recommended 150 minutes per week.
Physical inactivity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
“We need interventions to counter the rapidly growly inactivity that urbanisation leads to, by providing environments that change the way we live our daily lives. It is high time that built environments provide the quadruple boost towards health, environment, equity and habitat,” Shifalika Goenka from Public Health Foundation of India commented.