City walk/bike trail boosts child exercise

March 18, 2012 at 10:55 PM
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SAN DIEGO, March 18 (UPI) -- Wider bicycling and walking paths can inspire children to greater vigorous physical activity, say researchers who studied two Chattanooga, Tenn., neighborhoods.

The researchers compared two low-income neighborhoods in Chattanooga -- one had a new "urbanist construction" that featured a specially designed, 2-mile, extra-wide trail/sidewalk for biking and walking that winded from new public housing and single-family residences to a school, library, recreational facility, park and retail shops.

The second neighborhood had traditional homes, public housing, a new school, park and an older, regular-width sidewalk.

"There was more vigorous activity in the park and along the trail," lead author Gregory W. Heath, assistant provost for research and engagement at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, said in a statement. "There was more jogging or bike riding, which makes sense because the urban trail was made for that."

Heath said in previous studies on this type of community feature, the focus was mostly on suburban or upper-income neighborhoods.

"Infrastructural changes like these are expensive," Heath said. "But quite frankly in the long run, they're worth it."

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism scientific sessions in San Diego.

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