“We are spending billions of pounds in preventing and curing cardiovascular diseases – if we are able to invest in creating healthy cities through small retrofits in the design of our neighbourhoods to make them more activity-friendly and walkable, then probably, we will have significant savings in future healthcare expenditures.”
To measure a neighbourhood’s activity-promoting potential, researchers developed an index of walkability comprising relevant urban metrics, including residential and retail density, public transport, street-level movement, and proximity to attractive destinations.
Poorly designed spaces generally inhibited walking and physical activity, promoting sedentary lifestyles; and were detrimental to social interactions, and as such associated with poorer mental health and well-being.
Because walkability was based on the underlying design of a city, such places could be modified or designed to encourage it.
“Such investments in healthy design are likely to bring in long-term gains as they are enduring and all-pervasive,” said Dr Sarkar.