Urban infrastructure designed to encourage walking can help reduce childhood obesity, according to a study.
Researchers at The National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) in Canada found that children who live in more walkable neighbourhoods have a smaller waist measurement and a lower body mass index (BMI).
The study suggests that pedestrian-friendly amenities, such as pedestrian crossing lights, wider sidewalks, and signs to help pedestrians cross the road, have a greater impact in high-density neighbourhoods.
"Such features can also encourage children to ride bicycles, play outside, and engage in similar activities, all of which help them burn off energy," said Tracie A Barnett, a professor at INRS.
The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, also found that BMIs were lower in neighbourhoods with a convenience store.
These results demonstrate the importance of fine-tuning the analysis, particularly by taking into account the type of food sold in fast-food outlets and convenience stores.
The research team analysed and compared data collected two years apart among children in Montreal, Canada with a family history of obesity and who lived at the same address for the duration of the follow-up.
Other ongoing studies are documenting the transformations residential neighbourhoods have undergone in the last ten years to assess how much these transformations have affected the risk of obesity, researchers said.