Urban design with pedestrian-friendly facilities helps children to actively engage in physical activity such as walking and freely playing outdoors. Children who live in walkable neighborhoods are found to have a small waist size and lower BMI (body mass index). Urban design encouraging physical activity can help to reduce the risk of childhood obesity, according to a recent study published in Preventive Medicine.
Pedestrian-friendly amenities, such as pedestrian crossing lights, wider sidewalks, and signs to help pedestrians cross the road, are thought to have a greater impact in high-density neighborhoods. Such features can also encourage children to ride bicycles, play outside, and engage in similar activities, all of which help them burn off energy.
There is one unexpected outcome: In their research, the authors found that BMIs were lower in neighborhoods with a convenience store. These results demonstrate the importance of fine-tuning the analysis, particularly by taking into account the type of food sold in fast-food outlets and convenience stores. A study on the food environment in Saskatoon published in 20161 showed that children with access to high-quality food at low prices, at any type of grocery store located within 800 m of their home, had a lower risk of being overweight. This could also be the case in Montreal.
Other ongoing studies are documenting the transformations residential neighborhoods have undergone in the last ten years to assess how much these transformations have affected the risk of obesity.