Fitness-Friendly Neighborhoods in Demand

Posted on June 16, 2006

The ABC News has an article that says fitness-friendly neighborhoods are in demand by people seeking a more active lifestyle.

Virtually everything American society has done for the past 100 years has made it easier for its people to be fatter, said James Sallis, a San Diego State University psychology professor, and others who gathered recently at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting.

"We've built an unhealthy world in a lot of different ways," said Sallis, who was once dubbed an "obesity warrior" by Time magazine.

Sallis contends change will come only when the public demands walkable development, more federal money for parks and bike paths and even a tax on industries that promote sedentary lifestyles (he pointed to video game makers, movie theater chains and even electric Segway scooters).

Proof that people will accept an active lifestyle and walk to parks and shopping if they can is found in the "new urbanism" style of planned communities, the experts contend. They pointed to Denver's Stapleton neighborhood, an enclave of new homes built where the city's old airport used to be.

The neighborhood is a mix of shops, offices, parks, apartments and houses linked by wide sidewalks and meandering bike paths. Architecture varies from single-family homes to rows of brownstones. Tom Gleason, a spokesman for developer Forest City, said the design has been a hit.

There is no question that safe neighborhoods with nice sidewalks and bike paths can make it easier for people to get some exercise with a brisk walk or a nice bike ride. There is one other factor that is more difficult to control -- the weather. Many places are too cold or too hot to walk or bike for months out of the year. Global warming also seems to be making the weather more uncomfortable for bikers or walkers.

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