It all comes down to a question of motivation and attitudes. For example, theoretically you could walk from the Bronx in New York City to Brighton Beach at the bottom of Brooklyn, and even be on sidewalks almost the entire time, but that doesn’t mean someone would do it. If infrastructure for cities still supports not walking places (subways, taxi services, etc) people who just really would rather not walk won’t do it.
It’s interesting to think about though.
Jessie, it depends on where this would be implemented. And what strategy do you have in mind? Perhaps more non-linear sidewalks in more urban areas around a city would encourage community development, perhaps with the neighboring houses of such places forming committees overseeing the preservation of nature and eco-friendly practices in the area. Just an idea. Hope I helped, and have a green day!
Personally, I don’t think so. Although lack of exercise is certainly a factor contributing to obesity, and promoting walking as a form of exercise would probably have some impact, I think the most important factor is diet, both from a standpoint of amount of food consumed and its composition. In the Western world, particularly in the United States, we’ve shifted culturally to a heavy reliance on processed foods, which tend to be fattier and worse for us. One of these reasons, surprisingly, may be the automobile. In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser makes the point that the availability and popularity of fast food–commonly blamed as a major contributor to obesity-developed in tandem with the culture of reliance on personal auto transportation. Now we accept processed foods and fast food as a large staple of our diet. That behavior is now culturally ingrained in us, and perhaps biologically too (to the extent you believe hypotheses that fast foods or fatty foods are addictive).
Would walking help? Sure, but making cities more “walkable” would probably not, I think, have an immediate impact on obesity unless the walkability of cities occurred in tandem with other cultural changes that would influence the obesity epidemic. People walk not because they want to burn calories (usually), but because it’s cheaper, easier or makes more sense to walk than drive. Mixed-use developments, which cluster residential, retail and commercial spaces all in geographically compact areas, are land use planners’ attempt to foster a more foot- and bike-friendly environment. A key factor in a decision as to what transportation to take is whether a parking place is available. Consequently, mixed-use developments deliberately have a scarcity of parking so as to encourage foot, bicycle and mass transit commuting. This is an attempt to chip away at the cultural dominance of the automobile. Once we stop driving everywhere, our waistlines probably will shrink at least a bit.
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