Neighborhood Walkability Could Influence Diabetes Risk

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How walk-friendly is your neighborhood?

It could factor into your risk of developing diabetes, according to the latest study showing how the built environment affects health.

Researchers from St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found that people who live in not-so-walkable neighborhoods have about a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes compared with people who live in walkable neighborhoods.

"Previous studies have looked at how walkable neighborhoods affect health behaviour, but this is the first to look at the risk of developing a disease," study researcher Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist at St. Michael's Hospital, said in a statement.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, included the more than 1 million people who live in Toronto who are between the ages of 30 and 64. Researchers examined their diabetes status over a five-year period, as well as where they lived and the walkability of their surroundings.

Neighborhood walkability was determined by how well the streets were connected, what sorts of stores or destinations were available within a 10-minute walk, and the density of the population of each neighborhood.

The walkability of a city or neighborhood has also been shown to influence obesity risk, according to a 2004 study in the American Journal of Health Promotion. That study examined the walkability of Geauga County in Ohio -- which is considered "sprawling" -- and New York City, which is very compact.

Those researchers found that the Geauga County residents spent 79 fewer minutes each month walking than the NYC residents, and also weighed about six pounds more, on average.

For more ways walking could improve your health, click through the slideshow below:

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