Living in Vancouver's walkable neighbourhoods lowers chances of obesity by 31%, says study

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If you live in one of Metro Vancouver’s most walkable neighbourhoods, it turns out you’re about one-third less likely to be overweight than those living in the most car-dependent neighbourhoods.

New research presented at the International Diabetes Federation’s World Diabetes Congress held recently in Vancouver highlighted the work from Salman Klar from the Fraser Health Authority and colleagues with Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia.

Environment, such a walkability, is one of the factors that can influence the risk of type 2 diabetes, Klar found. He used the Walk Score resource, more often used by real estate agents, to determine the association between neighbourhood walkability and the body mass index of the people who live there.

Of all who participated in the research, 57.6% were found to be overweight or obese and 7% reported a diagnoses of diabetes. People living in a “walker’s paradise” – a neighbourhood with a Walk Score of 90 or above – were 31% less likely to be overweight than those living in car-dependent neighbourhoods with a Walk Score of 50 or lower. Those living in areas with a Walk Score between 70 and 89 were 11% less likely to be overweight.

“Walkable neighbourhoods play an important role in preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes by encouraging active lifestyles and increasing accessibility to services and amenities,” says Dr. Jat Sandhu, Principal Investigator of the My Health My Community project with Vancouver Coastal Health. “Municipal planners should view access to walkable neighbourhoods as physical activity resources for the community.”

Researchers say they took into account various sociodemographic factors of certain neighbourhoods when concluding the study, including health status, lifestyle behaviour and environment factors. The survey was primarily conducted online between 2013 and 2014 and collected data on body mass index through self-reporting.

According to Walk Score, the City of Vancouver scores a general 78 on the scale, meaning “very walkable.”

  • Downtown – Walk Score = 96
  • West End – Walk Score = 94
  • Strathcona – Walk Score = 93
  • Kitsilano – Walk Score = 89
  • Fairview – Walk Score = 89

The worst Walk Scores were given mostly to South Vancouver areas:

  • Oakridge – Walk Score = 61
  • Victoria-Fraserview – Walk Score = 62
  • Killarney – Walk Score = 62
  • Kerrisdale – Walk Score = 63
  • Sunset – Walk Score = 63

Areas in Metro Vancouver that scored less than 50 include:

  • Maple Ridge – Walk Score – Walk Score = 36
  • Township of Langley  – Walk Score = 39
  • Abbotsford – Walk Score = 39
  • West Vancouver – Walk Score = 43
  • Port Coquitlam – Walk Score = 47

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
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