Friday, September 8, 2006
Once again there’s a spate of studies linking the obesity problem and suburban sprawl. Here’s a report of the Trust for America’s Health and a Canadian study. Of course, no one should suggest that sprawl is bigger factor than, say, diet. Not surprisingly (to me, at least), the America’s Health report found that most of the fattest states are in the deep-fried South, while outdoorsy and health-oriented Colorado, Hawaii, and Vermont (despite Ben & Jerry’s!) were the slimmest –- evidence that regional diet and cultural attitudes are more important than sidewalks and housing density.
Certainly, obesity in the suburbs can’t really be “blamed” on land use planning; there are plenty of parks and gyms in the suburbs that simply aren’t being used enough. I’d guess that urbanites tend to be slimmer not necessarily because they walk to work (which certainly helps, of course) but because they simply are out doing more things and burning more calories; they are busy doing things other than simply watching television, playing video games, and eating junk food. If suburban and rural kids would spend more time playing baseball and jumping rope, as their grandparents did, the problem wouldn’t be so bad …