People who live in areas that have no sidewalks, or are otherwise unwalkable, are more likely to be obese.
A 2009 study found people who live in neighborhoods that were walkable got 35 to 49 minutes more physical activity each week than those who lived in unwalkable neighborhoods. A walkable neighborhood is one that is designed for people to walk from their homes to other places.
But in rural areas where there are often no sidewalks, cars speeding down narrow streets prevent residents from being able to walk to school, work, or the grocery store. The lack of sidewalks also prevents people from being able to bike if they are in a high traffic area. The lack of physical activity and the dependency on cars for transportation increase the risk of obesity for people in these places.
There are some federally funded initiatives in place to make walking safer, and while avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is important, it’s going to take more than just sidewalks to eliminate the obesity epidemic. It also takes, as we’ve been saying for a while now, education and access to healthy foods. Maybe when that happens, we’ll start seeing a decrease in the number of obese Americans.