Study: Walkable Neighborhoods Better for Kids

September 12, 2013

A new study finds that children who live in walkable neighborhoods, or “smart growth neighborhoods,” get 46 percent more moderate or vigorous physical activity than children who live in suburban areas that are designed for driving. 

The study, which appears in the American Journal of Preventive Health, found that children living in smart growth neighborhoods get 10 extra minutes of physical activity per day.

“We were surprised by the size of the effects,” says lead author Michael Jerrett, a professor at Berkeley's School of Public Health. “Ten minutes of extra activity a day may not sound like much, but it adds up.”

Researchers monitored the activity of 59 children in a planned community near Chino, Calif., and tracked the children’s activity level using GPS monitors. The kids were compared to a control group of 88 kids who lived in a conventional community that was not walkable. 

Developers are eyeing growth in smart communities, but existing communities are also being retrofitted to encourage more exercise, says Kaid Benfield, director of sustainable communities at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. 

“The best way to retrofit suburbs is to redevelop parcels of land that become available as strip malls, big-box shopping, and regional malls go out of service, replacing them with more walkable, mixed-use development,” Benfield says. 

Source: “Kids Get More Exercise in Smart Growth Neighborhoods,” Science Daily (Sept. 10, 2013)

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