Think that a place has so much air pollution that walkways, bicycle paths, etc., there are not a good investment? Reconsider. Researchers have found that “The health benefits of walking and cycling outweigh the negative effects on health of air pollution, even in cities with high levels of air pollution.” Investigators conclude that “in practical terms, air pollution risks will not negate the health benefits of active travel in the vast majority of urban areas worldwide.
Increase Physical Activity
Gardner and his team investigated ways researchers have tried to encourage people to sit less. They found that “Very or quite promising interventions tended to have targeted sedentary behaviour instead of physical activity. Interventions based on environmental restructuring, persuasion, or education were most promising. Self-monitoring, problem solving, and restructuring the social or physical environment were particularly promising behaviour change techniques.” Providing sit-stand desks was one of the interventions most successful at reducing sitting time.
An international study, published in a premier medical journal, probed walkability in 14 cities worldwide. Analyzing data from the International Physical Activity and Environment Network (IPEN) Adult Study, investigators found that when “Indicators of walkability, public transport access, and park access were assessed in 1.0 km and 0.5 km street network buffers around each participant's residential address. . . . [that]Four of six environmental attributes were significantly, positively, and linearly related to physical activity . . . : net residential density . . . , intersection density .
The American Planning Association is making available free, at the web address below, a review of the published research on relationships between street-scale features and physical activity. The introduction to the review provides a good description of it: “This literature review focuses on the benefits that may arise from investment in different types of street-scale features, either independently or in combination.
Engelen and colleagues investigated the implications of moving into a workplace designed to increase user activity levels. They determined that after study participants “relocated into a new active design building. . . . participants spent [significantly] less work time sitting . . . and [significantly] more time standing . . . while walking time remained unchanged. Participants reported [significantly] less low back pain. . . . Sixty per cent of participants in the new workplace were in an open-plan office, compared to 16% before moving.
Researchers have devoted a great deal of attention to identifying neighborhood and urban design that encourages active transport (e.g., walking or riding a bicycle). It turns out that income levels influence how people respond to active transport options. University of Washington researchers Xi Zhu and Cynthia Chen, presented research at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting indicating that “Lower- and middle-income [people] who live in denser neighborhoods — with stores, libraries and other destinations within easy reach — are more likely to walk or bike. . .
A new book offers insights on the design of outdoor spaces near healthcare facilities.
Walking not just related to walkability
How actively children play in parks is influenced by the design of those parks. Baek and his team found that “particular features of parks—especially complexity in landscape surfaces, proximity to sport facilities and playgrounds, and the availability of pedestrian trails—enable greater intensity of youth physical activity in a park.”
Solhyon Baek, Samira Raja, Jiyoung Park, Leonard Epstein, and Li Yin. “Park Design and Children’s Active Play: A Microscale Spatial Analysis of Intensity of Play in Olmsted’s Delaware Park.” Environment and Planning B, in press.
Assessing how healthy a built environment is