Obesity & Urbanism
The obesity predicament in this country and particularly the state of Wisconsin came to light last week with a report that showed 26 percent of people in the state are considered obese. The fact that over one quarter of the people in the state are overweight leads to increased costs in many areas of society, most prominently health care. One article that I read pointed out that this heath issue really has two sides to the equation: one the food that we eat and two the exercise that we partake in. So you ask how all of this relates to urbanism, good question.
The rise of obesity in this country largely follows peoples increased use of machines for everyday tasks. This is common sense, less manual labor burns less calories. So it is no question that walking is a large part of the physical activity we get every day. In traditionally designed and urban neighborhoods walking is a key mode of transportation. Wither it’s the 10 min walk to work, the transit stop or walking a block or two to get that gallon of milk. So let’s do a little comparison to see, everything else being equal, how many calories a typical suburbanite will burn vs. a typical urban resident.
Due to the compact built environment; the urbanite walks an extra “unconscious” mile every weekday. I call it an unconscious because when a person lives in a traditionally designed or urban neighborhood they walk without even thinking about it, it’s built in.
All in all, what does this do for the urban resident? The calories that are burned depend on the weight of the person and the speed of walking. I weight 165, so let’s say 160 and my favorite number is 3, so let’s say 3mph. With these parameters a person would burn an extra 85 calories. Not much right, well given the same weight and running at 6mph, you would need to run ¾ of a mile to burn those same calories.
Remember all of the estimations were rounded down. So by the time a person walks to their dry cleaner or to the store they could be saving themselves from having to run a mile everyday in order to stay healthy.
Guest post by: Matthew Trussoni
Matthew Trussoni, PhD, PE, RA is currently an Assistant Professor in and an alumnus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Architectural Engineering Department. After graduating MSOE he attended the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. where he completed a dual master’s degrees program in the School of Architecture in 2005 earning the degrees of Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Design. In 2009 he earned his Ph.D. in civil (structural) engineering in the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department. His professional experience has encompassed both architecture and engineering as he is a Registered Architect and Professional Engineer in the State of Florida.