Increased Reliance on Cars May Pose Health Risks - News digest - Public Health newsroom - Public Health
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As the nation's reliance on cars for daily transportation grows, research on the subject suggests such dependence on vehicles may have a negative impact on the health of the general public, Reuters reports. According to a professor at the University of Colorado, although people should ideally take 10,000 steps per day to maintain optimal health, individuals who rely heavily on cars for transportation typically take just 1,000 steps daily. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada quantified the link between distance driven and body weight, finding that an individual's obesity risk increases 3 percent for every 30 minutes spent in a car each day. By contrast, residents of neighborhoods with shops and businesses located within walking distance are 7 percent less likely to be obese than individuals who live in less walkable areas. In an effort to address such concerns, some community planners are exploring the possibility of modeling new community designs after older cities, such as New York, Boston and Chicago, which have densely populated streets and ample access to public transportation. As part of the shift, community planners also are examining ways to increase access to sidewalks, bike paths and other activity areas. For example, in Atlanta, which is known for its sprawling suburbs that are most easily navigated by car, city officials are considering a tram line project that would connect the city center with parks, communities and businesses (Bigg, Reuters, 6/1/09).