Does This Subdivision Make Me Look Fat?

Your significant other probably has never asked you this question but it may be one of the the most appropriate questions one to ask when pondering poundage.  Way back in the mid-70s, the U.S. obesity rate was about 10%.  By 2007, that rate had increased to 33% with another 33% of the U.S. being clearly overweight.  In 1991, zero states had an adult obesity rate greater than 20%.  Over the next 16 years, America stuffed its collective pie hole to the point where Colorado was the sole state under 20% in 2007. As a nation, we have gained 5.5 billion pounds since the 1970’s.  That’s 27.5 of our largest aircraft carriers.  Now, consider the tag-along maladies associated with obesity such as diabetes, heart disease, increased risk of certain cancers and osteoarthritis and we really start to see the immensity of this problem.

So, is it the increased number of Big Gulps that is causing this or is it the increased amount of couch surfing?  That’s a tough question to answer but studies indicate that sloth may have more of an impact on obesity rates than gluttony.  A study performed in Britain looked at obesity rates between 1950 and 1990 and saw that even as gluttony peaked and declined over the years, obesity continued to climb and the data suggested a notable causal role of inactivity.  A study looking at Atlanta found that an increase in daily driving of just 5 minutes increased the likelihood of obesity by 3 percent.  Add another 30 minutes to your commute each way and you’re scale will start to cringe.

Our car dependent lifestyle is literally driving our increased inactivity.  I would wager that most of us drive by necessity not by choice.  Fortunately, that is something we can start to change.  The sprawl fighting organization Congress for the New Urbanism has made healthy places one of its focal points.  In 2010 they partnered with the CDC make health a focal point of their annual convention, which was appropriately held in Atlanta that year.  The CDC has a Healthy Places program that lays out the guidelines for building places that help improve help rather than hinder it.  

If you live in a subdivision where it is a challenge to incorporate walking or cycling into your daily chores, your ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle for you and your family is going to be diminished when compared to a highly walkable neighborhood.  The health benefits that come from being able to open the front door to a walk friendly environment where you can walk to the store, office and park are significant.

It turns out that walkable places that new urbanists and smart growth advocates strive to create are one of the best solutions to many of the health issues that our country faces.  We are getting better with places like Historic Roswell, Avalon, Alpharetta City Center and Milton Crabapple providing (or soon to be providing) moderately walkable lifestyles.  But there is still a lot of work to be done.  Let’s keep pushing for walkable town centers with a diversity of uses, connective paths between neighborhoods as well as parks that are our kids can safely walk to and steer clear of the sloth inducing, car oriented development of the past. 


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