Those who live in areas that have lower walkability are more likely have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study. The research comes from St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto and ICES and is the first of its kind to analyze overall predicted risk over 10 years.
The research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that people living in neighborhoods with lower walkability were up to 33 percent more likely to have a high predicted 10-year cardiovascular risk compared to individuals living in the most walkable areas.
Researchers analyzed nearly 45,000 individuals aged 40 to 74 living in 15 major urban centers in Ontario, Canada. The study found that these people who didn’t have access to walkable areas not only were at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, but they also found that these individuals had significantly higher blood pressure and higher odds of a prior diabetes diagnosis.
Dr. Nicholas Howell, first author of the study and a Ph.D. graduate in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s spoke about the findings, saying, “The findings demonstrate that walkability is associated with clinically relevant differences in cardiovascular disease risk. From a public policy perspective, the findings support the idea that the benefits of walkable neighborhoods could be significant enough to move the dial for individual health.”
Dr. Gillian Booth, lead author of the study and a scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital’s MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions also spoke about the reality of living in spaces that are not designed for walkability. She comments about how these cities and communities can have a profound impact on our health.
“This research demonstrates that a future cardiovascular risk can be predicted based on the walkability of your residence. It should be an encouragement for those living in less walkable neighborhoods to source physical activities in other ways.”
Higher Likelihood of Smoking
Another interesting fact that was found during this study was that a less walkable neighborhood was associated with a higher likelihood of smoking. This could alter the findings of the study as smoking may offset the high levels of cardiovascular risk.
If you live in a neighborhood that doesn’t allow for physical activity, be sure to visit green spaces as much as possible or join a gym to keep fit and active. Many studies have outlined the importance of exercise including walking, and many people don’t get enough exercise even in neighborhoods that offer walkability.
Walking has been shown to be the most simple way to get exercise. There are many reasons to walk. Your heart will get stronger, you can lower your blood pressure and bones may even get stronger. Walking can also reduce stress, help you sleep better and best of all, it can help to boost your outlook on life!