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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Utah Obesity and Daybreak

The University of Utah recently released a study that compares rates of obesity with where people live. This study concluded that people who live in older neighborhoods are significantly thinner than residents of the newer suburbs. Most of these older neighborhoods were built before 1950, but considering the amount of building during the depression and the war, you will find that many of these neighborhoods had homes built in the first and second decade of last century. It was during this time that mixed-use communities were still legal before the separate zoning of commercial and residential. A prime example is the Yale / Harvard area of Salt Lake City. With village centers at 13th South and 17th East, 15th South and 15th East, and another nearby at 9th South and 9th East, most people can walk to the necessities of life. Schools are right in the middle of the neighborhood as well.

This study adds to the growing amount of literature linking obesity to non-walkable suburbs. People find it easy to say Americans are lazy and gluttonous, but the fact is that many U.S. communities simply are not designed for walking. Utah suburbs discourage walking because they are not very safe for pedestrians. Simple attributes such as sidewalks or traffic calming devices are not present. Another discouraging factor is when walking in a cul-de-sac you literally have to walk through a maze of secondary streets to reach most destinations. The only real direct route is to cut through yards. In the traditionally designed suburb, most destinations are not even within an easy walking distance of the homes. All of these factors play a role in discouraging pedestrians. This new study indicates that this active lifestyle is simply easier to achieve in communities that are walkable.

Virtually everything American society has done for the past 100 years has made it easier for us to be lazy. Early concerns about this were shown by the government with fitness and health campaigns being introduced in the early fifties. Currently, it is estimated that 17.1% of US kids Ages 2-19 Are Overweight. This sedentary lifestyle that correlates with obesity does not necessarily stop in childhood. This lifestyle is carried on to adulthood where almost two-thirds of all adults are overweight or obese. It is passed down through the generations, but this is not done solely by genetics. If you are overweight your child has a 40% greater chance of being overweight or obese. With so many opportunities to exercise in Daybreak, it is time that parents be an example to their children and lead a healthy lifestyle.

While Daybreak is cited in this study as being a model of healthy residential development, the study is only referring to the Daybreak that is planned. In an earlier post I talked about walkability in Daybreak. Daybreak is currently not a walkable community. This status will only change once the village center is up and running. With the giant district behemoth shopping center outside the gates, it will be difficult to entice residents out of their cars to visit local shops.


2 comments:

Dennis said...

I have recently (for various reasons) started riding my bicycle over to the District. It isn't as convenient as walking to the Village Center but it isn't bad. KL put a bike path on the south side of 11400 S. which helps.

By pure definition, Daybreak is not yet "walkable", but for pure exercise, it is very walkable. My family enjoys the exercise paths by foot and by bike daily in good weather. Also, every street has nice, wide sidewalks set back from the street by median strips. And the interesting architecture and landscaping makie walking for exercise in Daybreak a real treat.

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