August 1, 2008

Obesity Risk Decreases in Older Neighborhoods

Want to lose weight? Move to an old house.

People living in older neighborhoods are less likely to be overweight than new-home dwellers, according to a study to be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

For every decade added to their neighborhood's age, women's risk of obesity decreased 8 percent and men's obesity risk fell 13 percent.

Researchers found that people with old homes are slimmer because old neighborhoods are more walkable.

"The data show that how and where we live can greatly affect our health," Ken Smith, a co-author of the study and a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, said in a news release.

His study examined height and weight data from the driver's licenses of 453,927 residents in Salt Lake County and compared them with census data on median housing age.

The research doesn't mean all hope is lost for new neighborhoods, Dr. Smith said, rather that developers should take their cues from the past to make it easy for people to walk around.

"We have the opportunity ... to create neighborhoods that encourage less car driving, benefiting residents' health and wallets and shrinking our own carbon footprint," Dr. Smith said.

Originally published by Toronto Globe and Mail.

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