Is Your Car Making You Fat?
How to break the drive-everywhere habit
Where You Live
The Georgia Tech study didn't analyze the attitudes behind participants'
"We don't know whether people are sedentary because of where they live
or if sedentary people choose to live in environments that aren't
walkable," says Frank. "Also, do people trade off living in walkable
places for other reasons, like schools or crime rates?"
Frank and his family moved to Vancouver from Atlanta and chose a walkable
"We like to walk, and we're more physically active than we were in
Atlanta where the environment wasn't walkable," he says.
Where are you likely to find walking-friendly neighborhoods?
"Often, any neighborhood built before 1950 is walkable," Frank tells
WebMD. "Also, in college towns it's easy to walk or bike."
Moores, who has a nutrition consulting business in Minneapolis/St. Paul,
says creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment will take a commitment
from developers and communities.
Some companies with workplace wellness programs offer bonuses for people who
don't use the parking garage, or for people who wear pedometers and record a
certain number of steps.
Others make cars available during the workday to encourage people to use
mass transit or to park some distance from work. That way, a car is available
if an employee needs to go to a meeting during the day or respond to a family
Many city planners are now adopting "Smart Growth" designs for land
use that promote livability. Smart Growth includes preserving natural
environments; developing new areas as mixed-use neighborhoods of shops and
residences; and providing transportation systems that accommodate pedestrians,
bicycles, and mass transit as well as automobiles. One-third of suburban
respondents in the Georgia Tech study said they would prefer to live in a Smart
On the federal level, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy
Thompson called for "complete streets" to help fight the obesity
epidemic, saying, "Every road being built, you should be able to walk on it
or ride a bike on it."
A Walking City
Brian Gabrial, PhD, got rid of his car when he moved from Minneapolis for a
job in Montreal a year ago. It wasn't a sacrifice. Even in Minneapolis, he
often left his car at home, preferring to walk and ride the bus.