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Walker-Friendly Areas Promote Healthy Weight

People who can walk from home to work are less likely to be obese

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- People who live in older neighborhoods and those who can walk to work are less likely to be obese than their counterparts in newer and less walker-friendly neighborhoods, according to a report published online July 29 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Ken R. Smith, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City compared measures of environmental walkability with data on body mass index, overweight and obesity among a population of 453,927 Salt Lake County driver's license holders aged 25 to 64.

In areas where there were increased levels of neighborhood walkability, there was less risk of excess weight, the researchers found. An individual's risk of obesity was reduced by 10 percent if the percentage of a neighborhood's residents walking to work was doubled. Older areas also had a lower proportion of overweight and obese people among their populations; the risk of obesity was reduced by 8 percent for women and 13 percent for men if one decade of age was added to a neighborhood, the report indicates.

"The results of the present study demonstrate the utility of two new walkability indicators and the value of using large driver license databases to investigate weight outcomes," the authors write. "Both advances offer the advantages of providing extensive local coverage at low cost."

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