A walking is a simple form of exercise

A walkability analysis is the study of an area in relation to
analyzing the conditions of a built environment that is traveled by foot. The
term ‘walkability’ is used as a way to measure the lives of “foot people,”
evaluating the questions of whether walkability influences crime, foreclosures,
housing values in neighborhoods and health factors such as obesity. The spaces that
neighborhoods exist in can be completely different from each other; some could have
parks while other does not, including sidewalks, bike paths and more. Walking
is the simplest and one of the most common forms of physical activity among
adults, regardless of age, sex, ethnic group, education or income level. Even
though walking is a simple form of exercise the obesity levels continue to rise
in the United States. One of the most common ways to determine if a person is
underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese is called the body mass index
(BMI). This method was developed in the 1830s and is still the preferred method
of determining someone’s health.

            This study
examines the association between walkability and the levels of obesity throughout
Philadelphia County.  A study performed
by Feng, J. et al. (2010) states “individual behavioral change can occur only
in a supportive environment with accessible and affordable healthy food choices
and opportunities for regular physical activity.” There have been studies where
patterns of land use have been connected with a wide variety of environmental and
health consequences (Frank, L. et al. 2009). When examining the neighborhoods
in Philadelphia County, there are clear differences within the county and what
they have access to based on where they are located. Having access to food
locations, recreational areas like parks or nature trails and other features
gives the individuals based on their location different options for physical
activity. If an area show low levels of physical activity there is an increased
risk of a variety of adverse health conditions and are responsible for at least
200, 000 deaths per year in the United States so this is an important public
health priority (Frank, L. et al. 2009). In particular, low-density growth with
dispersed uses has linked with physical inactivity, traffic congestion, air
pollution, and risk of hypertension and overweight (Frank, L. et al. 2009). Depending
on the researcher, the elements chosen for the study are considered important
for walkability within the built environment.      Though
studies consider the walkability of an area, each study measures it differently
and places more importance on specific factors. Research performed by Rundle et
al. (2009) discusses the connection between the food environment and obesity
with proof that access to BMI-healthy food outlets like supermarkets, fruit and
vegetable markets and natural food stores is inversely associated with obesity.

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            While there is a strong
instinctive appeal to the idea that the built environment must be contributing
to the obesity epidemic, there is a multitude of studies using different
methods because the current scientific evidence does not have a clear-cut
answer (Feng, J. et al. 2010).  By
understanding what specific areas have an increased risk for obesity,
information can be provided to those areas to bring awareness to individuals
(Black et al. 2012). In the future, enhancements in the measurement of the
built environment could add to advances in research in health, transportation,
and behavioral and social science disciplines (Frank, L. et al. 2009). Previous
research has shown that the built environment features that are related to
walkability were associated with approximately a 10% difference in the
prevalence of obesity (Rundle et al. 2009).

Even though these studies did not
identify a specific culprit between a walkable environment and the obesity
epidemic, these analyses indicate that retail outlets providing opportunities
for healthier food retailers are associated with lower BMI (Rundle, A. et al.
2009).  Multiple studies performed came
to a similar conclusion that a more physical or social environment is beneficial
to that area, this brings light to future research opportunities. Study data
can be used to identify areas needing increased facilities to combat obesity,
such as walking trail or parks (Black et al. 2012). Behaviors occur in the environment
of places; maximizing “person environment fit” call for a focus on wider and
upstream determinants and intervention exceeding the individual level (Feng, J.
et al. 2010). Overcoming difficulties facing obesity research requires the combined
effort by all relevant disciplines (Frank, L. et al. 2009). A collaborative
effort needs to start, but systematic approaches for methods development are needed
immediately so that studies can start to close in on the significant features
of the built environment that are contributing to the obesity epidemic (Frank,
L. et al. 2009).


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