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Does Sprawl Make Us Fat?

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the spreading-out dept.

Science 659

Ant writes "A Science News article talks about the relationship between city design and health. New cross-disciplinary research is exploring whether urban sprawl makes us soft, or whether people who don't like to exercise move to the sprawling suburbs, or some combination of both." From the article: "So far, the dozen strong studies that have probed the relationships among the urban environment, people's activity, and obesity have all agreed, says Ewing. 'Sprawling places have heavier people... There is evidence of an association between the built environment and obesity.' ... However, University of Toronto economist Matthew Turner charges that 'a lot of people out there don't like urban sprawl, and those people are trying to hijack the obesity epidemic to further the smart-growth agenda [and] change how cities look.' ... 'We're the only ones that have tried to distinguish between causation and sorting... and we find that it's sorting,' [says Turner]. 'The available facts do not support the conclusion that sprawling neighborhoods cause weight gain.'"

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659 comments

Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (5, Interesting)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733268)

The objections quoted in TFS are debunked quite well in the linked science article. Additionally, research earlier this year shows teenagers living in sprawling suburbs were more than twice as likely to be overweight as teens in more compact urban areas [prorev.com]

These kids have never moved, never had a choice about where they live and are still much fatter.

It's a no brainer really. Less walking opportunities = less energy expenditure = more stored energy (as well as eating crap on those long, boring car journeys to work/school to save on cooking time at home so you can sit in front of the idiot box).

Anyway, the failure of town planners is going to work out by itself in the end. As oil prices skyrocket & people in the suburbs grow fatter, the solution become obvious. Liposuction clinics combined with gas stations ;-)

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (3, Insightful)

scoot80 (1017822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733332)

The comforts we have in our lives make us fat. We can order food online, change channels with a remote, we don't even really have to use pens anymore.

The human race has come from lean mean hunting machines(?) to the slobs we are. The more technology we have, the more we turn into slobs.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733602)

Until we have so much technology that we can reshape ourselves at will!

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (3, Informative)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17734018)

We can already reshape ourselves at will. Want to be thinner? Eat less, excercise more. The technologies of diet and physical fitness are more than advanced enough to give you pretty much whatever body shape you desire (though we can't do much about bone structure yet). I think when you say 'at will' you really mean 'without having to change your lifestyle'.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (0, Redundant)

igny (716218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733354)

Correlation != causation

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (3, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733410)

Correlation != causation

Thank you for your insight.

However, I also gave a reason as well as noting the correlation: Less walking opportunities = less energy expenditure = more stored energy

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733486)

Spawl != Less walking opportunities. That's your social conditioning talking. You think Spawl -> pedestrian unfriendliness and pedestrian unfriendliness == people afraid to walk. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (4, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733696)

Spawl != Less walking opportunities. That's your social conditioning talking. You think Spawl -> pedestrian unfriendliness and pedestrian unfriendliness == people afraid to walk.

Nope, I'm not thinking that at all. You're thinking I'm American, but I'm not.

Compare say the sprawled Australian city of Sydney and the non-sprawled European city of Amsterdam. Both are pedestrian friendly and people would not be afraid to walk in either.

In Sydney, the majority of people drive to work, drive to the Supermarket once a week, drive to their local shopping center for entertainment, etc. In Amsterdam however, there is much less sprawl and much better public transport. People are forced to walk to the tram/train before going to work, entertainment, etc.

Have you ever lived in a non-sprawled city? I've lived in both and believe me, it's not about pedestrian unfriendliness, but about easy accessability to work / entertainment / shops (beyond your local expensive milk-bar) / schools / etc by pedestrians.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733754)

I've lived in Sydney, and I found no need to drive a car.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

scoot80 (1017822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17734006)

Where did you live? CBD?

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733942)

thats bullshit. amsterdam has bike ways all through the city and people use them. THATS why. now try riding a bike to work in syndey and see how long you live.

the problem with urban sprawl is that it takes 1 hour to get to work and back meaning people are late home and early to leave resulting in them being less inclinded to cook a proper meal and more likely to eat take out "because i can't be bothered" is the classic. if you want a real solution to obesity it starts with schools providing healthy meals, and continuing on at the work place. hell think how much it'd be worth it to get an extra hours work out of people just so they stay at work to finish up and have dinner before heading home.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (4, Interesting)

Mitaphane (96828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733848)

It's not just that sprawl makes pedestrian unfriendly environments. Sprawl, by its nature, consumes more land per person and creates wider distances between people and the places they need to be. Often, these distances are way too great to make walking even an option. Example: When I lived in the 'burbs, in order for me to go to the post office, I had to drive (unless I like walking for hours). Now that I live in downtown, the post office is a couple blocks in walking distance. That is an option I frequently take advantage of.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733992)

How far are we talkin' here? I live in the burbs and it's at most a 20 minute walk from anywhere to the post office. Not that I can imagine an american walking for 20 minutes..

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733506)

Yes, your theory is all fine and good, however the FA said that the _correlation_ is due to sorting, not to causality. The question you propose is what should teenagers in that region look like? If they are _also_ obese, it does not mean that they are obese because of the lack of exercise afforded them, it is far more likely that they have obsese parents (sorting effect) who _influence_ their children to make poor nutritional choices and not exercise. The tail does not wag the dog.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (3, Insightful)

pnot (96038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733520)

As the great Edward Tufte put it: "correlation is not causation, but it sure is a hint" :-).

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (2, Insightful)

nathanh (1214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733542)

Correlation != causation

Note to moderators: it's insightful the first time, it's redundant the millionth time.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733622)

Correlation != causation

Thank you Captain Obvious

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

alfs boner (963844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733372)

Go fuck yourself asshole.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733406)

I don't know if all the US is like this, but every spawling area that I've been to in the US is insanely pedestrian unfriendly. There are very few crosswalks on major roads, forcing people to dash across, typically to an offramp that has "no pedestrians" signs on it, even though there is no pedestrian access ways nearby. I've never seen a foot bridge over a major road, nor a tunnel. In fact, I've been to parts of the US which don't provide ANY pedestrian access to a mall. I guess they figure that if you don't drive a car then you don't have enough money to shop in their store.

Compare this to Australia and Europe, where there is as much urban sprawl as the worst parts of the US but every road has a sidewalk, every set of lights has a crosswalk, and foot bridges and tunnels are commonplace. This results in two things: getting in your car to go get milk and bread is considered lazy and, as a result, there's lots of small "corner stores" to get milk and bread almost everywhere people live. Kids walk to school, and/or catch public transport. And seeing as there are lots of people on the streets, street crime is virtually unheard of - it's a lot easier to mug someone if the only people nearby are in cars with their windows rolled up because they're afraid of street crime.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (5, Insightful)

MadAhab (40080) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733620)

Very well put. And behind this study is similar reasoning to what you provide; mixed-use communities provide more opportunities to walk someplace.

On a personal note, I gained a lot of weight after moving to the burbs. Living in NYC and walking up 3 flights of stairs kept me more active. Even in an elevator building, I did a lot of walking around with groceries.

Unfortunately in America, "sprawl" is a term that has been continuously co-opted, in many parts of America, to mean "let's have large lot sizes to retain our rural character" which of course *creates* sprawl. Other parts of the country, e.g. California, which have huge amounts of building purely residential developments on empty hills, have other problems. Namely, gated-community-type shit, which dictate all houses have to look alike and no commercial development. This demands that you drive a few miles to a strip mall just to buy milk.

Americans need to rethink development in a very serious way.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

fossa (212602) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733758)

I moved to one of two areas in my medium sized American town with any sort of shopping within walking distance (grocery, a few cafes, various other shops). It isn't looked upon as being the "nicest" neighboorhood, but it's pretty nice, and I love being within walking distance of "stuff". I've actually been made fun of for choosing that neighboorhood and for taking my own grocery bag to the store and carrying my groceries home... Maybe it's a little jealousy, but I don't quite get it.

The rest of town is scattered neighboorhoods in between miles and miles of four to six roads lined with parking lots, strip malls, and chain restaurants like so many other urban areas. Blech.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (4, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733852)

Well the good news is that development is starting to be rethought in a very serious way. Many people are sick of/not impressed by the homogeneous golf course dormitories. Upscale communities are now being built around a "New Urban" concept which has closer together residences interspersed with shops and services. It's either a scaled down small town or a scaled up vacation resort depending on how you think about it.

The irony is that it's the same snobs who brought us sprawling gated communities that are pushing the move to more walkable residential areas.

Not so here (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733724)

It's certainly not as friendly as europe, but things are definitely changing for the better in Colorado.

I technically live in an ex-burb (cringe) and they haven't finished building all the paths, but there are a few places I can get to mostly on bike trails, and within a few years we'll be connected to one of the main trail networks so i'll be able to travel to locations around 15 miles away rarely crossing any roads. A fair number of the new roads have bike lanes.

I can think of a few pedestrian bridges over major roads and a few more underpasses and there are pedestrian crossings at *most* intersections including all those in built up areas.

I can even walk from my office to my wife's office faster than i can drive (at least I can when there isn't several feet of snow on the ground).

On the other hand, I spent a night stranded in Dallas and probably spent 45 minutes trying to walk from my hotel to a shopping mall that I could see. In the end i gave up and had dinner delivered.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733782)

Some areas don't even have sidewalks. I've seen this starting to change, though - in the past three years, I've seen a residential area in Durham, NC finally put in sidewalks where there were none for several miles. And then in my mom's neighborhood in Kansas City, MO, a jogging path was made alongside a state highway to connect two areas with subdivisions and shopping centers. These suburban areas seem to be slowly realizing that people *want* somewhere to walk to. But it's so slow.

This is why I bought a condo in the city rather than a real house in the suburbs - I get to work with 15 min on the bus + 15 min walking, rather than 1.5 hours in the car. (When it's not 20 degrees out) I can walk + bus to grocery stores, drug stores, a mall, Target, almost everything I need. I *hate* being bound to a car to get anywhere, but I know that in a few years when it's time to have kids, I'm probably going to want to move to some suburbs somewhere where we can get a bigger place, a real yard, better schools and lower crime. I just hope that the anti-sprawl movement has made it to whatever city we're in then, so I can find someplace where I can have all that *and* walk places. I would love my kids to grow up walking to school, the grocery store, the mall, etc.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733882)

Compare this to Australia and Europe, where there is as much urban sprawl as the worst parts of the US but every road has a sidewalk, every set of lights has a crosswalk,
Not true with regard to Australia - it has about the same problems as the US suburbs and also inconvenient curved roads (sometimes even without shoulders, much less sidewalks) making you travel a 3 km distance for 15 minutes and cul-de-sacs. It is a possibility that you're talking about Sydney, but the rest of the country is not much different from the good ole US.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

wass (72082) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733562)

Liposuction clinics combined with gas stations You mean, as in using the liposucked fat as fuel for those new-fangled waste-oil-powered automobiles?

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

RalphBNumbers (655475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733668)

Another possibility is that the force of habits in transportation methods picked up living in one area is predominant over actual access to places worth getting to by foot in a new area. Perhaps the teens in your study have built a habit of not walking, and would thus remain sedentary and overweight even if they were moved to a more tightly laid out area, as the people in TFA's study did, and people who make a habit of walking would keep doing so to some degree even if they were placed in the burbs.

I know I'm solidly in the burbs at the moment (albeit only in the 2nd town out for the city, not the deep-burbs), and I still walk to work every day, and occasionally walk to a restaurant for lunch when the weather is decent and dry (the lack of sidewalks in places can make snow and mud a problem). But I'm the only person I work with who seems to do either, even though I know at least one coworker lived closer to the office than I do.

There are places to walk here (5 parks of various sorts, several office complexes, a bank, one community college, one huge electronics store, 3 convenience stores, a video rental place, a hair salon, 2 pizza places, 2 Mexican restaurants, a Korean restaurant, a middle eastern restaurant, a diner, a handful of fast food places, etc... all within less than a mile of my house), people just don't make a habit of walking to them.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (0, Flamebait)

slughead (592713) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733926)

Sprawl doesn't make you fat. Lack of discipline makes you fat.

The kids who move a lot are faced with more adversity so they actually have something to DO.

I have no idea why people blame things from french fries to urban sprawl for obesity. We just plain have no discipline anymore, that's all!

I always hear "I can't work out, I don't have time!" I work out 10 hours a week, am a full time straight-A pre-med student, and work part time at 2 jobs. How do I do it? I tried it with an open mind, and it was possible. I'm not even that stressed out or tired.

As a matter of fact, you CAN do it. PS: I don't own a TV.

Average wages are the highest in the past decade than they've been in any other point in history, but we have record debt. How is that possible?

We don't NEED to be out of debt, we don't NEED to be skinny, so therefore we're fat debtors, and there's nothing wrong with that, provided we can get away with it. When the day comes that we can't do it anymore, you'll see us snap back to our industrious puritan heritage we were founded upon... or we'll all have simultaneous heart attacks and sue McDonalds.

Re:Sprawl DOES makes you fatter (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 7 years ago | (#17734030)

Don't think for a minute you'll live this way forever. Your lifestyle fits the norm for a typical over-motivated college kid. As soon as you settle, you'll be like everyone else with their TV and souped up stereo systems. You'll spoil yourself in more ways imaginable cause you have already spent your 20s working hard and exercising. In fact people like yourself often become most obese cause you just don't care anymore.

Yes and no and yes and no (5, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733276)

Let me try to sort this out:

YES, not having to walk around very much will make it more likely you won't get the exercise necessary not to be fat.

NO, it does not "cause" it (in the sense they want you to take it); you can still make the choice to exercise on your own, irrespective of how much you need to walk in a day for other purposes.

YES, there's probably a correlation between "how much people in this city have to walk" and "how fat they generally are" that persists after the appropriate controls.

NO, that's a bad, ad-hoc reason to fix urban sprawl. Urban sprawl is bad because it leads to time-wasting congestion and forces people to have to use cars, which sucks for anyone who can't or doesn't like to drive, and exposes people to the risk of energy price fluctuations unnecessarily. It also contributes to pollution. There, I just made a strong case why sprawl is bad, without resorting to being a health Nazi.

I'd like to plug my latest joural entry, which describes a way cities could transition gradually to less sprawl, without tedious regulation, government-run services, and invasive control over people's lives. In short: put up tolls heavy enough to clear congestion. This creates the financial incentives necessary for market-driven mass transit, which in turn makes denser development more economical and desirable to live in.

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (4, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733340)

There, I just made a strong case why sprawl is bad, without resorting to being a health Nazi.

Obesity in suburbanites is just an additional reason why sprawl is bad, not the reason.

In short: put up tolls heavy enough to clear congestion. This creates the financial incentives necessary for market-driven mass transit

Market driven mass transit has been successful nowhere. Transport infrastucture is (or should be) a government problem.

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (2, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733552)

Market driven mass transit has been successful nowhere.

And market pricing of road use appropriate for peak hours has been tried nowhere. (I know, I know. "LA has $20 for tolls in ..." Does the freeway traffic still stop? Okay, then the price wasn't high enough.)

Transport infrastucture is (or should be) a government problem.

In some places, it has to be. But it should certainly involve as much entrepreneurialism as possible. The infrastructure for e.g. a train will have to require government somewhere, for the simple reason that it will have to cross many properties. But discovering and pricing the appropriate depots and stops people are willing to use when traveling long distances within cities is certainly something markets should do. Once it's revealed that people have planned their lives based around point B to point E having a quick journey -- hey, now you know a good place for the train to go.

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (3, Interesting)

doktor-hladnjak (650513) | more than 7 years ago | (#17734008)

Market driven mass transit has been successful nowhere.

That's not necessarily true. Before WWII, there was quite a lot of successful privately run and funded mass transit. The Key System [wikipedia.org] in the Bay Area comes to mind. Unfortunately, at this point it's financially infeasible for any private company to make the investments in infrastructure necessary to run a profitable system like this.

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (1)

shlashdot (689477) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733460)

Let me guess - you've done a study?

"put up tolls heavy enough to clear congestion. This creates the financial incentives necessary for market-driven mass transit..." Yeah, that sounds really market-driven, with none of that tedious regulation, government-run services, and invasive control over people's lives.

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733588)

Yeah, that sounds really market-driven, with none of that tedious regulation, government-run services, and invasive control over people's lives.

Yes, it does.

It contrasts with the usual government solution: tell people how much space they can use, when they can start building, what kinds of cars they can drive, who can provide bus transportation, how much of each plot they may develop, when they may use the roads, how much they can build along the outside of the city.

My proposal is just: "Here's how much the road costs to use. You decide if it's still worth it."

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733780)

Yeah, that sounds really market-driven, with none of that tedious regulation ...

Without government regulation you could hardly have a market, could you? Even if a market itself is not subject to regulation (ie a black market), it still requires property to be able to pass between individuals, and not just property in the abstract sense, but property as something you have a legal title in (ie. property which the state recognizes you as the owner of). Similarly you need government regulation for contracts to be enforcable.

Mind you it would be great if there was no government, cause I (well not me alone of course) could just come and take all your stuff by force, and you wouldn't have a government to run off to for help. Things haven't been that much fun since Viking times.

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733566)


>>NO, it does not "cause" it

That's about as disingenious as saying that cigarettes don't kill people, it's the smoking that does. It might be technically true, but there's certainly a facilitation that's occuring.

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733856)

The disingenuity is on the side of those who use the term "cause" sloppily. The study at most shows that sprawls causes one less required exercise during the day. One must further not fill that in with exercise, and one must eat a poor diet, to get the obesity. It's completely the wrong way to view this kind of "cause". It's like the scientists are saying:

"Yes, when there is a high degree of urban sprawlus, that causes the fat cells to be increasingly retained, which then contributes to lardus assus."

Why do people care about obesity studies? Well, some people like to use them to absolve the resposibility of the obese. When you come right out and say "urban sprawl causes obesity", well, you're inviting misinterpretation. Let's look at your example: when you say "cigarettes kill people", it's understood to mean the *consumption* of those cigarettes. But when you say urban sprawl causes obesity, is the meaning so clear?

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733778)

Well, here's the thing.

I live in downtown Cincinnati - the reason I live here is because I can walk to work, there are a lot of places to eat and hang out and life is quite nice. More importantly, the crowd that lives in downtown for the most part tends to be fairly young, a lot of whom work in downtown. I have the added advantage of not having to drive except for groceries or to go hangout somewhere outside of downtown, which saves me a lot in gas. This also means I have to walk to work, which is great. This also gives me a lot of time to spend on other things, because I save the odd hour or two from not driving. There is also a community of folks out here, because most of the crowd tends to be young and belong to a certain demographic.

Now, contrast this with some people I know - they spend as much as an hour in the morning and evening driving. Apart from the time spent, you have the problem of energy - the last thing you want to do after having driven an hour after a long day's work is do something, like say swim, work out or playing a game of tennis or even work on something. So, a lot of people just sit and watch TV or read. If you can't walk to a place to eat or do something, then you either decide to stay at home or you decide to drive, both of which don't really help you in any way.

And ironically, the best neighbourhood in Cincinnati happens to be Hyde Park, which is another part of town which is primarily one where you have a lot of places you can walk to.

Now, I do not know if this is cause and symptom or mere correlation, but the healthier crowd tends to live in one of these two neighbourhoods, or other similar neighbourhoods. While I can understand why some folks may not want to live in downtown (crime-rate*, family, kids, schools etc.), there are other similar neighbourhoods around the city. Of course, Cincinnati is modelled after European cities, so that might explain it too.

I guess what I am trying to say (supported by no less than anecdotal evidence, of course) is that while it may not entirely be the cause of being in poor shape, it almost certainly contributes towards it. I'd imagine that it is a question of lifestyle - hell, I do not even own a TV because I often tend to have so many things going on that I have picked up because of the free time.

* The crime rate in downtown Cincinnati used to be bad a few years ago, these days it's just changed a lot. Partly because of the kind of crowd that is coming in and partly due to the city's efforts, it's negligent in most parts of downtown (of course, there are *always* shady, seedy parts of town). As far as my experience goes, it's been perfectly safe and quite comfortable (then again, I used to live in Atlanta, so take that as you will).

Re:Yes and no and yes and no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733962)

In short: put up tolls heavy enough to clear congestion.
And that's supposed not to be government's "invasive control over people's lives"? Uh-huh. Besides, you're missing one major point: People are flying to suburbs from the cities because the cities are largely unlivable due to the hordes of jobless black junkies, crime, dirt and stench. And if you have a family, you certainly don't want it to be exposed to all this if you have a choice.

Fat, yes. (1)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733286)

Not to mention stupid.

I know some very intelligent, down-to-earth city folk, but I swear most of them live just outside the realm of reality.

the future is now (4, Funny)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733338)

Fat, yes. Not to mention stupid. I know some very intelligent, down-to-earth city folk, but I swear most of them live just outside the realm of reality.

Yeah, well, not all of us were able to get into Costco law school like you and your elite friends.

Only two words needed to fix obesity. (1)

chris_sawtell (10326) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733304)

Ration Book.

Re:Only two words needed to fix obesity. (2, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733564)

I'm 260 lbs

I eat 1 burrito for breakfast, not huge, but small, low grease - chicken no beef, cheese and some garlic on a spinache tortilla.

For lunch I drink a bottle of mineral water and a V8.

For dinner I have a noodle bowl.

My weight is maintained and slowly losing. I walk quite a bit every day at work, and go out of my way to walk extra, lift weights and do some exercise. At this weight I'm stronger, more agile, and have better endurance than many of my coworkers who are obviously in a better height/weight ratio and close to my age. They all eat more than I do, less healthy food, and in all but a couple of cases do less exercise.

I have a coworker who's five years older than me. Weighs about 140 lbs, is four inches taller than me. He comes in eating onion rings, burgers and fries at the start of shift. Come lunch time he eats whatever he gets his hands on, often greasy. Through out the night (late shifters) he browses the building for cake, cookies, and whatever else may be left in the offices/work areas. He leaves and eats a couple of more meals, often greasy and sugary. On top of that he drinks at least a six pack in the morning after shift. I have one or two a week.

On your ration book setup he would starve, and I would gain massive amounts of weight if I took full advantage of it.

Only two more words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733804)

Black market

what? (1)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733312)

So far, the dozen strong studies that have probed the relationships among the urban environment, people's activity, and obesity have all agreed, says Ewing. 'Sprawling places have heavier people...

Ah, a positive correlation between urban sprawl and gluteal sprawl. I wonder what the formula for that would look like.

Short and sweet.. YES.. cars = fat. (2, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733360)

if the distances are not practically tractable on foot, people will use cars more often than their feet.

you use cars and you move less with your body.. you get fat..

Theory (1)

Rethcir (680121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733366)

Research by a guy named Ewing. Could we call this the Ewing Theory?

Re:Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733808)

I believe its pronounced U-wing, not E-wing (if that was your assertion).

one solution (2, Insightful)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733382)

Put treadmills in the doorways of all the McDonalds. The treadmill won't shut off until you've burned up all the calories you just ate. On top of prices they can list minutes required on the menu to burn off the calories. Instead of worrying about calories people will worry if they have the time to eat a large fries.

Re:one solution (2, Insightful)

recursiv (324497) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733792)

So what exactly would be the purpose of eating? If you had to burn every calorie you consumed right after you consumed it, you would die sooner than later. The purpose of eating is calorie intake.

Re:one solution (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733828)

WHOOOOOOSH!

Do you hear that? That's not the sound of someone from MickeyD's farting, but the sound of the joke going over your head.

And oh, if your body needs more, it will burn your fat to get what it needs. Which I imagine is the whole purpose of working out.

Re:one solution (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733874)

Holy crap dude! I just saw the pictures of the potholes and the roads on your commute. That looks terrible. Biking in a place like that has gotta be hell.

Sprawl? No. (4, Insightful)

Metzli (184903) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733390)

Sprawl didn't make me fat. Eating more calories than I burn made me fat.

Obvious (1)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733402)

I used to live in downtown Seattle and didn't own a car. I walked a ~1 mile to the nearest Safeway and 5 blocks to my bus stop. Plus there were walks to restaurants or the mall. If you have that kind of lifestyle, it's pretty hard to become obese unless you really, really try. Furthermore, suburbanites usually commute quite a ways to work. Depending on where you live, this commute can take a substantial chunk out of your day. This lost time means a.)you're more likely to eat a quick, unhealthy meal b.)find less time to exercise. Granted, some people still wouldn't do a and b, but wasting time in traffic sure eats away at your free time. I personally think suburbs are, on the whole, one of the worst creations in the US. You can trace so many problems to them. And if you look at satellite images - especially of California towns - you can see how they keep cramming the new houses closer and closer together. Who the hell needs a real backyard anyway?

Re:Obvious (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733638)

I lived for 3 years without ever starting the crappy car I did own. I walked to work. I walked to the grociery store. I walked for everything I did. Guess what? I was still fat. Being fat has a lot more to do with genetics than with exercise. This is well known. Those that come from lean genetic lines, like to pay the 'your fat because your a bad person card', but it is utter BS.

How could teenagers who don't get a choice in where they live, have higher rates of obesity than those in the city? Easy. The fat parents move to the suburbs and pass along their fat genes when they get there.

As for time. In most places, taking public transportation will take 2x to 5x longer for any given trip from doorstep to doorstep.

I think suburbs are great. Heavily populated cities are for the most part incredibly bad places to live. You don't need to do any tracing to find the problems with living there. Yes, in CA they keep cramming the houses closer and closer together. Why? Because they make more money per acre, and they get less grief because they are reducing 'urban sprawl'. It is the move away from 'sprawl' that is the problem. Not the other way around. Who wants to live in a rat cage, and send their kids to play a casual game of touch football where they will use the crack dealer as one goal marker, and a bum as the other.

Re:Obvious (3, Insightful)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733876)

Yeah, fat genes. Good one. There is no such thing. If there were such a thing, we could breed a race of superfat humans who can exercise constantly and still gain weight. Second law, eat your heart out!

The kids are fat because their parents are fat and the whole household eats chicken fried steak and gravy on a bed of iceberg lettuce covered with Kraft Singles and ranch dressing. And the little lard buckets take a car to school and back and play Nofreindo when they are at home.

Humans are incredible walking machines. We have a higher endurance than any other land mammal. We are built to walk and walk and walk some more. When a human doesn't walk, they get fat. It's a pretty simple system.

I'm sorry to hear that you hate real cities. I know that culture and the arts can be a pain in the ass and are best eradicated. And I hate having to see all those interesting people all over the place. Man, I wish I could move back to Midwest City so I could drive everywhere and never interact with anybody.

We're missing the obvious. (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733422)

Nope, suburbanization is only a symptom. Automobiles and poor diet are the root cause of the recent trend toward obesity. They work most effectively when combined for a quick trip through the drive-through of the local burger joint. The widespread adoption of automobiles following World War Two allowed developers to build large suburban housing tracts that would have been far to isolated if the population had to rely on lengthy trips by public transportation. Once people moved into suburbia, they were too isolated from traditional shopping streets in the heart of cities and towns. As a result, suburban shopping malls (most easily accessed by car) sprang up across North America. Those eventually devolved into the "big box" retail concept, in which it is often impractical to walk between shops in the same shopping center because of the mammoth parking lots.

Re:We're missing the obvious. (2, Insightful)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733456)

Uhmm Sprawl and Automobile have a self perpetuating cause and effect relationship. More of one cases more of the other with our current mindset.

I wouldn't walk either (4, Interesting)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733426)

In many sprawling communities, walking past the driveway/subdivision is asking to die.

That's not hyperbole, but a basic consequence of planning that is downright hostile to anyone who isn't behind the wheel of a car. I don't believe cars should be eliminated, but car-dependance is a truly awful thing that I'm glad that I've been able to break free of...but I don't know for how long. The attitude of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority isn't friendly to mass transit. In the words of their last General Manager "the automobile won" and light rail is obsolete. Buses are the future, apparently. In the last few decades, automobile registrations in Boston have tripled as rail lines have been shut down or cut back dramatically in favor of surprise bustitution that suddenly becomes permanent.

It's depressing enough to see a new cookie-cutter car-dependant community rise up where a forest used to be, but it's even worse when a city with an excellent transit system that encourages people to ride the train then walk decides that it wants to be just like PinePointeAutumnPreserveRegistryReserveGrove Habitation Area #49485776893-B and compel people to pick up the bad habits of the suburbs.

Yes indeed it does, (3, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733432)

that and civic design. Here in Houston I challenge you to ride a bike from point A to point B. There are no sidewalks, no back roads that go through, no bike lanes, what bike lanes that do exist are right next to fast moving over sized commercial loads that reguard that as a "vehicle sprawl" lane. Figure in unstable buisness environments that virtually guarantee that if you move close enough to work to walk/bike you will lose your job and be forced to work forty miles away.

When I lived in Phoenix, I rode my bike everywhere. Now that I live in Houston (one of the most sprawled cities in existance) I have gained massive amounts of weight, and regularly commuted 3+ hours a day.

Re:Yes indeed it does, (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733742)

When I lived in Phoenix, I rode my bike everywhere. Now that I live in Houston (one of the most sprawled cities in existance) I have gained massive amounts of weight, and regularly commuted 3+ hours a day.

I certainly agree that civic design (proper sidewalks, running trails, bike lanes, etc.) is an important and inexpensive part of any city. I also agree that Houston is a huge city, by any standard. However, it is not the ideal example of urban sprawl, as Houston basically just encompasses what would be suburbs elsewhere; it is a huge city, geographically speaking, but it is not all intensely industrial or of high population/commercial/whatever density as urban sprawl theory would dictate. What I mean is that, although Houston is huge, it is not all inner city/CBD/industrial, and is not expanding these areas at any great rate. (Not trying to incite anything here, I just don't think urban sprawl is as much of a problem or excuse as some people might think.)

Re:Yes indeed it does, (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733854)

I typically refer to the entire Metro as Houston, since many unicorporated towns of the past are now legally and technically part of Houston, but still retain their old unicorporated names, such as Clear Lake. The only real exception to the no sidewalk/bike path thing is Kingwood.

Houston is VERY industrial, pull up Google Maps near the ship channel, of course that counts as Pasadena and Deer Park. Houston is all those things and then some, it just doesn't focus on any one of them well.

Re:Yes indeed it does, (1)

garyboodhoo (945261) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733954)

Phoenix AND Houston. My sympathies. Only lived in Phoenix for a year but couldn't really imagine riding a bike there (the heat, the sprawl), and thought it was filled with not exactly obese, but "doughy" people. Mostly girls I recall. Mostly on Mill Ave

"I hate my parents!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733436)

Another odd topic for pierced, medicated, age twenty-something cyber-children to dwell on.

Inevitably, the blame for their anger will fall upon their parents.... for being "too white".

No. (0, Redundant)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733440)

It's a basic law of physics. Eating more calories than you burn with regularity makes you fat, and no amount of excuses will change that. As we become more sedentary due to technology's conveniences, our caloric needs decrease, and it is up to us to either take up recreational physical activity to continue our diets or restrict calories accordingly.

I am sick of the excuses made, and it's time to do something about the obesity epidemic before it bankrupts our healthcare system.

Totally unscientific evidence of a corelation. (1)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733488)

I want to highlight two points, the first an observation about my own circumstances, the second a "law" of beauty.

1) I am currently in grad school in rural Indiana. Prior to that I was in undergrad in downtown Chicago. While I live about the same distance from school here as I did in Chicago, I cannot walk here. My fiance and familly have all taken the time to not just how much weight I've put on in just a year. Still eating about the same.. never went out of my way to exercise in Chicago.. but there you go (No, I was never "thin" but I've gained about 20 lbs.. which is very visible weight).

Treadmill comes Thursday (nope, not kidding.. goodbye gut, hello living to 80).

2) What a friend once positted me as the "Hills of beauty" correlation. The women in cities which are built on hills tend to be more svelt and.. just generally.. better looking. (there are myrriad benefits linked to arobic exercise other than straight weight control - such as clarity of eye-whites, blood flow to the epidermus, etc). Rome proved this one for me.

So, I propose the following.. From now on we require that all towns be constructed with many sidewalks that needlessly go up and down in elevation of at least 15 ft waves. (30 ft from high point to low point, getting off the sidewalk when it hits ground level.

Well?

-Gih
(Durr.. making a joke.. but points 1 and 2 are serious.)

Re:Totally unscientific evidence of a corelation. (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733614)

So, I propose the following.. From now on we require that all towns be constructed with many sidewalks that needlessly go up and down in elevation of at least 15 ft waves. (30 ft from high point to low point, getting off the sidewalk when it hits ground level.

Hmm, I think I've found a solution to our landfill problems: use our garbage to build artificial hills under all sidewalks in urban areas to force exercise on the masses! This would work, if people really in need of exercise weren't already so inclined to drive and pay for parking, take taxis, or use public transportation to get anywhere, even if the trip is only a few blocks.

Re:Totally unscientific evidence of a corelation. (1)

Deltaspectre (796409) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733842)

Not to mention everyone avoiding driving from the constant hills :)

Re:Totally unscientific evidence of a corelation. (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733618)

As far as "hills" go - this is simply an impression, but hills account for differences in body shape that transcend even socioeconomic status. We associate obesity with the lower classes, but even in those societies where the hills are occupied by the poor (as in the favelas in Brazil and in other Latin American regions) those hill-dwellers seem to be in better shape.

Being fat versus getting jacked at gunpoint... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733512)

Given the choice of a suburban area with decent police patrols, areas in cul de sacs where children can play with a low risk of getting run over by a drunk or drugged driver, and good schools versus crime-ridden slums in the center of most cities where the only education kids get is how to avoid (or join) gangs, and exposure to pot, meth, heroin, and other nice substances... I'll stay in the suburbs, thank you very much.

We can see why people either live in the suburbs, make new suburbs... or will move to the suburbs when they can. I rather deal with a bit of weight from fat than losing body mass due to exit holes from some felon's .38 special.

Does urban sprawl even exist? (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733532)

I'll start with an apology or disclaimer: I don't remember the exact sources I am referring to, though they appeared to be statistically relevant and thoroughly conducted. That said, I have to point out that the results of at least a couple of studies have questioned whether "urban sprawl" really even exists. You see, it may be obvious that suburban development may indeed be moving into what were previously rural areas. However, it is also apparent that urban areas of high population density and intense industrial development have not been expanding their geographic coverage (at least in the US).

Certainly it would be fair to say that urban areas are constantly reorganizing themselves, but notions of truly urban areas sprawling out to encompass suburban and rural areas seem unsupported. Again, perhaps "suburban sprawl" would be a more realistic topic, thought that is a different beast entirely.

Re:Does urban sprawl even exist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17734034)

What is sprawl? I read something in an article once about how by most objective definitions of sprawl, a place like Central Park in the middle of Manhattan ought to be developed. :)

Does Sprawl Make Us Fat? (1)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733580)

No, our fat makes us fat.

Re:Does Sprawl Make Us Fat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733666)

Best. Reply. Ever.

Simple (1)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733630)

This is obviously because in a city there are many things to do and in suburbia there are many television shows to watch. Here's another one: if you live in a city, many things are a short walk away (that's the whole point), whereas in suburbia, you're hopping in the car and sitting on your ass for the duration of almost any trip, and your sitting on your couch otherwise.

It's not rocket science: "Oh, God. We think there is a real pattern here. When people live within walking distance of interesting places and activities, they walk more, burn more calories, and are slimmer on average." Do I get a PhD now for not being an idiot?

Four words to weight loss: (5, Insightful)

B4RSK (626870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733640)

Losing weight is incredibly simple. The entire topic can be covered in 4 words: Eat less, exercise more.

Not surprisingly people become ugly fat porkers because they don't follow that simple four word formula.

(This isn't self-righteous spew -- I need to lose about 20kg to be at my optimal weight. At least I know the only person I have to blame is myself.)

Re:Four words to weight loss: (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733738)

And it's a lot like quiting smoking...

Sure, 'Stop buying cigarettes' is only three words. 'Stop using tobacco'.

I'm about 20 pounds over my 'ideal' weight. However, to try to get there requires restricting my diet to an extreme point and results in my body doing the whole slowdown thing to make it even harder and me feel like crud.

Hopefully they'll come up with a pill to fix that someday.

Re:Four words to weight loss: (1)

B4RSK (626870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17734012)

Smoking is different as it is an addictive drug. (Thankfully I don't smoke so I don't have to deal with that particular addiction nightmare...)

If you are 20lbs overweight and holding that level then you will probably find more exercise to be a bigger help than eating less.

Re:Four words to weight loss: (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733764)

Losing weight is incredibly simple ... (This isn't self-righteous spew -- I need to lose about 20kg to be at my optimal weight. At least I know the only person I have to blame is myself.)

No offense, but maybe you'd sound less self-righteous if you started talking after you lost the weight. Until then, it kinda sounds like you literally don't know what you're talking about.

Re:Four words to weight loss: (1)

B4RSK (626870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733984)

I'm fully aware that the extra 20kg that I pack around every day is there because of my own choices and the priorities I have set.

I do want to lose the weight, but at 188cm (6'2") the extra 20kg isn't grossly visible when I'm wearing clothes and there are other things that I have set as higher priorities at the current time.

So I'll remain as a self-described "ugly fat porker" until I get sick enough of it to fix the problem.

Re:Four words to weight loss: (1)

Teddy Beartuzzi (727169) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733774)

This huge piece of chocolate mousse cake tasted much better before you started saying "ugly fat porker", thank you very much.

Re:Four words to weight loss: (4, Insightful)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733894)

Well, of course it is. But it's a lot easier to do that if you live in a place where you can walk to work or the grocery store in 15 min, as opposed to living in a place where you have to drive an hour to work and an hour back every day - not only do you lose that half hour of walking you would have gotten in the city, that's also two hours less you have available for cooking a healthy meal and exercising. It's a lot easier to get enough exercise if you can do it *on the way* to other things you have to do, rather than having to put time aside for it.

So, yes, eating less and exercising more is how you lose weight. It's just that that's often a lot easier in the city than the suburbs.

Re:Four words to weight loss: (1)

B4RSK (626870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733966)

That is a lifestyle choice.

My 20kg of extra flab is a lifestyle choice too... I choose to prioritize work and social life over getting more exercise. If I made exercise a higher priority than at least my social life (and partially the extra work I do) then I would rapidly lose that 20kg.

Oh for crying out loud! (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733662)

We all generally EAT TOO MUCH! Our guts are too big and so our hunger satisfaction signal is delayed. Working out and being active is good and all, but that's not the biggest part of what's wrong. It's WHAT we eat and how much of it we eat. That's why these stomach stapling operations are so remarkably effective. It's clearly not that these people have been working out too little, but that they have been eating too much. The solution is most simple and direct.

EAT LESS.

I'm kind of over-weight myself... I'm working on it... sorta. I never claimed the answer would be easy... I'm just identifying the problem for what it really is. Working out and being more active to "compensate" for the enormous amount of food we take in doesn't leave much time with family, friends or work. It's nearly impossible to work out enough to compensate for the diets most of us indulge in... just eat less.

I go for correlation not causation on this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733688)

For my experience in cc philly, the cities tend to skew more towards attracting the young single professionals that are very active all the time. As they get hooked up and preggers, they tend to move to the suburbs for their breeding periods and their fattening up. The ones that stay to breed in the city (more and more of the families are staying in town than before) also get fat, but most numerically end up in the suburbs with more sprawl. So I go for correlation not causation on this one.

Does living in a small town make one fat? (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733736)

At least, that was the experience of a friend of mine. He gained weight when he moved from a city to a small town. The reason he gave was this: When in the city, he had to walk to the station, and then walk from the city station to the office. Even if he drove his car, it was still a small hike from the car park to the office. When he moved, he drove to work, and parked mere meters from his office chair, in which he was to remain all day. There is nothing so simple, is there?

"Sprawl" is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733786)

Cities shouldn't be planned. Sprawl is a perjorative term for single family homes with yard and surrounding comercial/office/light industrial development outside cities. People choose sprawl over centrally planned apartment blocks near public transportation
If you actually dwell in a city sprawl is much preferable to its alternative "infill" in which the developers and planners crowd up your city neighborhood giving you the same headaches as the sprawl residents without their benefits of lower cost/ more space.
Let people choose-don't rely on authoritarian "planning". As for the subject you can walk/run/exercise anywhere.

Christopher Alexander (2, Informative)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733794)

Hello! Inspiration for patterns! Gang of four! "A Pattern Language"? "The Timeless Way of Building"? Hello? Anyone out there?

Sorry. I got snotty ther efor a moment. One of the points of his books is that modern bureaucracy specifies building codes that demand the end results this study sees. It's been out there for decades at this point. How sad.

It leans on things. It is loose-limbed in its mind (1)

kale77in (703316) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733820)

Well I preferred the great Australian poet Les Murray's take on "sprawl" -- a far better use of a great-sounding word:

Sprawl is the quality
of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce
into a farm utility truck, and sprawl
is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts
to buy the vehicle back and repair its image.

Read more [plagiarist.com]

Who cares. (2, Interesting)

Jartan (219704) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733864)

It's not the sprawl it's the transportation system. Lots of other countries have urban sprawl but the fact that people often use public transportation leads to them walking a lot more to get from the train stop to wherever they are going. In the US in almost every city the entire road system is built on the premise that you have a car and that you will drive directly from your garage straight to the parking lot of wherever you are going and do almost no walking at all.

Why do we need to do a study on this though? It's useless information. We know the basic gist of why people get fat. The human body wants to store energy in case of emergency and runs itself on the premise of conserving energy when energy intake gets low. Thus the only real way to keep a fit body is exertion and a decent intake of calories. Instead of worrying about ways to cause people to exert themselves more how about we spend our money on real solutions like fixing the human body so it doesn't have to operate in a prehistoric fashion.

Anecdotal (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733870)

But my experience bears this hypothesis out. I haven't lived more than a year in a single place in a decade, and my time has been split between west coast car-oriented suburban sprawl cities and east coast and midwest dense subway-and-sidewalk cities, all in the U.S. I've gone back and forth a bunch of times.

Each time I move east to a dense subway-and-sidewalk city, I lose a good 40 pounds without even thinking about it. (I'm a pretty tall guy, so it's not as drastic as it may at first seem.) When I move to a suburbs-and-car city, I gain it back without even thinking about it. The difference in mode of transit (walking and standing a lot vs. driving a lot) seems to be enough to tip the balance. There may also be a dietary component, since I've noticed that (for example) living in L.A. I seem to live almost entirely on standardized-menu fast food (which tends to be junk food) because it's simply what's available to those who don't cook, while living in New York (as I am now), I tend to live almost entirely on local deli and mom-pop-restaurant food, much more "fresh ingredients" and much less "whatever the warehouse supplier sends over to the drive-thru."

For Fucks Sakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17733896)

Did you know children with big feet are better at math? It's true. For the millionth time, correlation does NOT equal causality. It's a disgrace for Slashdot to call this science.

Dictionary entry (1)

sankyuu (847178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733900)

From wordweb:

sprawl
Noun. An ungainly posture with arms and legs spread about
Verb. Sit or lie with one's limbs spread out

Of course it makes us fat!

-Sankyuu

Victoria Transit Policy Institute (2, Interesting)

dschl (57168) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733908)

One site I check every few months is the Victoria Transit Policy Institure [vtpi.org] . They have a lot of resources on sustainable transportation policy. When I watched my previous employer start paying for additional parking spots for new employees, I looked to VTPI for information on parking cash out. Cash out is an incentive program to not drive - if it costs the company $30/month for a parking spot, cash out programs pay employees the savings from not providing a parking spot. This encourages people to bus and bike to work. In my case, the employer wasn't interested, one of many reasons I no longer work there, but that's another story.

When I read the title of this article, I immediately though of VTPI. There is actually a PDF cowritten by Lawrence Frank which is listed on the VTPI main page, which is available from Smart Growth BC. Lawrence Frank is mentioned in TFA, and several of his studies are linked at the bottom. The Smart Growth BC PDF did not appear to be in the list of links at the bottom of the TFA at Science News Online. The PDF is 52 pages long, and is titled Promoting Public Health Through Smart Growth [smartgrowth.bc.ca] (also an HTML version from Google cache [72.14.253.104] to avoid melting down Smart Growth BC's server). It's more about how to design your cities properly, to avoid the health issues cited in TFA. From the preface to the PDF:

This report explains how our built environment shapes our transportation choices, and in turn, human health. It reviews the existing research for a range of transportation-related health impacts on seven public health outcomes: Physical Activity and Obesity, Air Quality, Traffic Safety, Noise, Water Quality, Mental Health, and Social Capital.
I enjoy most of the information on the VTPI site, but then again, for me, they're mostly preaching to the converted. I'd rather relax and read on the bus for an hour, or enjoy a 1 hour bike ride to work than fight rush hour traffic in a car for a half hour.

Obesity has to do with far more than just sprawl (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733910)

Now, this is purely anecdotal but it does raise some questions.

I have approximately 25 first cousins on my dad's side of the family. All of our previous generation who grew up together show the same build characteristics. 8 of us grew up in suburban/rural environments, the rest in the city.

All of the suburban males are built more or less the same. In our teen years, we had a line backer type build and as we've aged, we've kept a lot of the muscle but we've also picked up some fat. One urban male was obese from the time he was two years old and remains that way. Two urban males were murdered. The west have a wide receiver type build and generally seem to be maintaining it. All of the urban males have done jail sentences to my knowledge.

One suburban female is slim. All of the rest of the females, urban or suburban are somewhere between chubby and "OMFG how does she get through the door?" The slim one (my sister) is probably that way from years of a variety of drug abuse. Again, this shows a general family consistency for body size.

Now... why did the suburban males have a larger build while the urban males had a smaller build? We all played the same sports. The urban boys walked around a lot but we also rode bikes long distances a lot (a 10 or 15 mile bike ride up and down hills wasn't unheard of). The suburban males also did a lot of activities not open to the urbanites such as hunting, ATV riding, etc. I think the key, though, was that the suburban males ate VASTLY different from the urban ones. We all had our share of junk food but the suburban males all had large family meals while the urban kids didn't really eat as a family and if they did eat at home, it was usually something like hamburger helper, spaghetti or a cassarole that could be just slapped together. And before you zing me for a stereotype, yes... all the urban families were on welfare. The suburban kids were probably consuming twice the calories of the urban kids on a daily basis.

Now... as we've gotten older, the suburban males still live in the suburbs as we exercise less than we used to which is probably why we've put on some weight. None of us have older kids or large families like our parents did, so there is less pressure to eat as much since we obviously need less. It's easy to try to point at sprawl and make it seem like the bad guy here... however, would you rather put on 20 pounds and live a fairly safe, productive life or would you rather spend your life in and out of jail, never holding down a serious job and end up risk taking 50 years off your life by getting killed? Those odds are just anecdotal and its possible that we're exceptionally stereotypical as an extended family but I know where my kids will be growing up. And lest you say that the suburbanites should have done more for their urban family, we tried but the urban parents fought tooth and nail. The two who spent the most time with us on the weekends are the ones who've mostly managed to stay out of jail and have some type of life for themselves and their family, unfortunately, one of them was murdered the day his infant son died of the flu because he got drunk and confrontational knocking on the door of the babysitter's house.

Causation? Or merely correlation? (1, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733938)

Let's throw out some other ideas, just for kicks. Maybe people who live in low-sprawl, compact cities like New York City, San Francisco, or Toronto...

  • spend more on rent, ergo by necessity they make higher salaries, ergo they also have more money to spend on organic, fresh, whole grain, vegetarian, fill-in-the-blank food, rather than Hot Pockets.
  • tend to be employed as professionals, therefore tend to be college educated, therefore tend to read more, therefore tend to know more about nutrition.
  • statistically drink more coffee and smoke more cigarettes, both of which are stimulants and also appetite suppressants.
  • don't have kids, and may never even have been married, therefore never went through a period of their life where they spent a lot of time at home.

You could think up some other possible alternative explanations, I'm sure.

Here's a question worth asking: Seems to me that the greater Los Angeles area has as much "sprawl" as anyplace in America. Are Angelenos fatter than the rest of the country? Doesn't seem like it, to me.

Hijacking the Obesity Epidemic (1)

eldamitri (19790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17733994)

Mr. Turner should give them some credit. Hijacking the obesity epidemic is no small feat. That sumbitch weighs a ton.

"Sprawl" is good. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#17734024)

Step one: Conclude that sprawl is bad and ant-cities are good
Step two: Concoct a study to demonstrate it. Massage data as appropriate
Step three: There is no profit because no matter how much you try, you're not shoehorning our oversized buttocks back into anthills.

Seriously, have these people seen the size of people in Philadelphia? The suburbs are MUCH less fat.

may the issue rest (1)

benicillin (990784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17734040)

lazy people choose not to live in cities where they will have to walk so much, therefore they get fat living in the suburbs where they can be lazy and drive. its not the suburbs that make you fat, its the attitude of the people who choose to live in the suburbs that leads to those results. lazy people aren't interested in living in a city where one is required to walk places, they want to drive their car and avoid effort. so in a way the study is correct, but it's missing the human element.

also, to address the point made earlier suggesting that teenagers in the burbs, who are given no input on their living location, are heavier because there are less walking opportunities - that all depends on whether you value nature or nurture. actually, it mainly depends on if you consider either one of them. the fat people are obviously going to have fat kids because a) its probably in the family genes and b) if your parents are fat they are probably lazy (unless they have some sort of genetic deformity - refer to part a) and a large portion of childrens' development is based on their main role models - their parents - therefore they pick up on those lazy traits. so if the fat people live in the suburbs, fat kids are gonna live there too and it's not just because there are less walking opportunities.

and thus i have put this issue to rest.
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