News Brief

If You Build It, They Will Walk

A study tracked the walking habits of people moving into new developments in Perth, Western Australia, and confirmed that access to walkable destinations increased people's physical activity.

Stuart Sevastos

The results of a decade-long study bear out the common-sense idea that walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with recreational destinations encourage residents to walk more.

The study, beginning in 2003, surveyed more than 1,400 people who planned to move into new developments in Perth, Western Australia. Respondents self-reported their weekly walking habits in surveys filled out both before moving and approximately one year later; the authors tallied walkable destinations in the respondents’ previous neighborhoods and in the new developments, such as shops, parks, and mass transit stops.

Some developments provided fewer such amenities, causing a decline in residents’ walking. For those with increased access to walkable destinations, every additional local shop meant residents walked an extra 5–6 minutes per week, and every additional recreational facility correlated with an extra 20 minutes of physical activity per week. The authors suggest policies are needed that encourage the inclusion of recreational and transport-related destinations in housing developments to utilize “the potential of local infrastructure to support health-enhancing behaviors.”

 

Published April 3, 2013

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