September 9, 2015 - Reduced risk of heart disease and obesity, lower blood pressure and enhanced mental well-being – just a few of the many health benefits of walking announced by the Surgeon General today along with a call to action for improved environmental conditions that will make walking safer and more convenient across the nation. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have designed a tool to help improve communities so more people will lace up their walking shoes and hit the pavement…without tripping hazards.
The findings are published in the September issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal.
MAPS-Mini is a 15-item checklist used to score community features relevant for physical activity, such as street design, sidewalks, intersections and crossings. The scores were used to see how the strengths and weaknesses of environmental conditions were related to walking among 3,500 children, adolescents, adults and seniors in San Diego, Seattle, and Baltimore.
Trained participants walked a 0.25 mile route from their residence toward a designated destination, such as a community center, park or school. Along the way, the route was scored based on items like trip hazards, crosswalk markings, buffers between streets and sidewalks, landscaping and street lights. The better the score, the more likely people of all ages were to walk in the neighborhood.
“A critical advantage of the features scored is that they are modifiable. It takes less time and money to repair a sidewalk or improve a street crossing than to change a neighborhood’s layout,” said James Sallis, PhD, lead author and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health.
The median walkability score of neighborhoods was only 37 percent.
“The results of this study indicate a substantial need for improvements. If Americans are to act on the Surgeon General’s advice to walk more, neighborhoods need to be safer and more comfortable places to walk,” said Sallis.
Sallis adds MAPS-Mini proved to be a feasible and evidence-based tool his team hopes can be utilized for families or individuals to find the best routes in their area, as well as be a useful resource for city planners to identify changes needed to make neighborhoods better for walking.
Source: UC San Diego Health Sciences