Hippocrates said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Friedrich Nietzche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived through walking.” Studies seem to give credence to the statements of Hippocrates and Nietzch. Walking contributes to better health, reduces stress by clearing the mind for better thinking, and contributes in a positive way to happiness.
According to an article, “This Old (Healthy) House” by Tara Parker Pope, “Neighborhoods built before 1950 tended to offer greater overall walkability because they had been designed for pedestrians. Newer neighborhoods often were designed primarily to facilitate car travel.”
Walkable neighborhoods are neighborhoods that are constructed in such a way that facilitates walking. Certain criteria determine the walkability of a neighborhood.
Walkable neighborhoods should have a center, such as a public place or a main street. Such neighborhoods should have a large enough population for businesses to prosper and for public transportation to run expeditiously. Affordable housing located near businesses is an important component of walkable neighborhoods. Such neighborhoods should include parks and other commons areas to gather or play. Buildings should be close to the street, with parking lots being in the back of the buildings. Schools and workplaces should be close enough that residents can walk to them if they want. Streets in walkable neighborhoods should be designed for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit.
Walking for Health
Maintaining a healthy weight is paramount to staying healthy. Walking can help maintain a healthy weight. A study reported in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed that people living in the most walkable neighborhoods weighed an average of 8 pounds less than people who lived less walkable areas.
Quoting from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2010 report, "A healthy community is one that continuously creates and improves both its physical and social environments, helping people to support one another in aspects of daily life and to develop to their fullest potential. Healthy places are those designed and built to improve the quality of life for all people who live, work, worship, learn, and play within their borders -- where every person is free to make choices amid a variety of healthy, available, accessible, and affordable options.”
Walking for Happiness
Walking can relieve stress and make people happier. Studies assert that people living in walkable neighborhoods are happier because they are more socially engaged and more trusting of others.
A study from the University of New Hampshire, as well as other research on the subject, links residents’ quality of life and their improved physical and mental health to living in walkable neighborhoods.
A quote from the article, “Walkable Neighborhoods Make People Happier” further explains the relationship between walkable neighborhoods and happier people: “People who can walk to their favorite cafe, stroll to a neighborhood park, or saunter to a community center are more trusting and civically involved than people who live in car-centric places, say researchers from the University of New Hampshire in a study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life.”
In conclusion, it would seem that walkable neighborhoods contribute, not only to better health for the residents, but happier residents as well.