Catfish and Cod
Friday, August 29, 2003
Why are we fat? Because we don't exercise, of course!
(Link path: Baltimore Sun, American Journal of Health Promotion, in press, American Journal of Public Health, in press)
The study cited above claims that a big part of the cause of American obesity is urban sprawl. The article above points out that education, race (i.e., genetic background), and age are larger factors. I might mention that American plenty is also to blame: in the distant past, all rulers were fat simply because they could eat well. American food marketing and the Fast Food Nation can't help either. Yet everyone agrees that exercise is part of the answer; and living in Boston, a pedestrian-friendly, car-discouraging city, has taught me that proper urban design can encourage exercise. What if everyone that commuted today walked a mile to work? What if more children walked to school instead of taking the bus or riding in Mom's car? What if you went shopping by pushing a personal cart rather than driving an SUV?
While some bemoan sprawl, others see opportunity. New Urbanism is an architectural movement that aims to reduce sprawl and renew the American Community that was destroyed by Levittowns and freeways. With New Urbanism, you can rebuild civic spirit by encouraging local downtowns over strip malls and long commercial highways. New Urbanism also encourages urban designs that allow people to walk to work (or to mass transit), to school, and to the grocery. New Urbanism can even revitalize former sprawl through infill projects.
The future of urban America lies in revitalization, and re-creating a small-town feel in a global context. Not only will it be good for the economy, but it will be physically and mentally more healthy than the lifestyle we built for ourselves in the twentieth century. Let's get started.