Backpacking Fitness

Townies Live Better

More evidence that suburbia blows

Researchers at the University of Utah recently found a link between older neighborhoods, those built prior to 1950, and skinnier people. The researchers concluded that these older neighborhoods planned and constructed with pedestrians in mind promote walking–the residents can’t help it.

By drawing on body-mass index information (determined from height and weight) culled from 450,000 residents of Salt Lake City, the university discovered that men living in older sections of the city are, on average, 10 pounds lighter than their suburban counterparts. Women in these pre-War houses are an average of 6 pounds lighter. The difference has to do with the car-centric subdivisions built after WWII, which required residents to drive out of their neighborhoods to shop or go to the local coffeehouse to hang out.

There’s nothing new here, except that I think this is the first study that actually puts the difference between living in the city vs. owning a home in suburbia in terms of pounds. Frankly, the 10 pound difference for men is more than I expected.Also, I had always assumed that city dwellers skewed slimmer because their demographic seems to be much younger, i.e. men and women in their 20s and early 30s. Turns out I was wrong.

I came across this news in a New York Times blog, and it took this story one step further, pointing out an equally interesting finding from Stanford, which discovered that people living in pedestrian friendly neighborhoods who were trying to be more active were twice as successful at making that lifestyle change than their suburban peer group. If I’ve read this correctly, this would indicate that city dwellers are more successful at taking up marathons than suburbanites.

All of this leads me to think that, if I want to get really, really skinny, moving to 40 acres in Montana won’t be as effective as moving into a 400-square-foot apartment in San Francisco. I guess this goes to show that all those little, unnoticed strolls city folk make throughout their daily lives do add up to one lean, mean calorie-burning machine.

FUN STUFF: See how your town ranks in walkability here: