Neighborhoods where people can walk to work, the store and other locations in their daily lives boast better cardiovascular health and lower rates of obesity. However, a study published in Environment International shows that these health benefits are cancelled out by poor air quality.
Using data from the CANHEART study, a dataset of the cardiovascular heath of 10 million adults living in Ontario, Canada, researchers selected 2.5 million subjects, rating each of them on their exposure to walkable areas and traffic-related air pollution. They analyzed subjects’ risk of hypertension and diabetes based on both of those factors.
The issue with walkable neighborhoods is the proximity to the roads that connect people to the stores they frequent. This increases the exposure to cars and their harmful emissions.
Urban developers are increasingly looking for models that prevent urban sprawl, the continued growth and spread of cities.
Popular Science says the study proves that walkable neighborhoods may not currently be as beneficial as urban planners had initially hoped, but this could give insights into how these planners can design future neighborhoods while keeping citizens’ health in mind.