How The Suburbs Are Taking a Toll On Your Health


Can you get someplace—anyplace—in your neighborhood without a car? If you’re one of the many Americans who live in a suburb, chances are the answer is no.

And so the progress which began in the 20th century to get people out of dirty, congested cities, and which did much to halt the spread of infectious diseases, has come at a great cost, reports Jane Brody in the Well Blog on (“Communities Learn the Good Life Can Be a Killer,” Jan 30, 2012), because the more time we spend in our cars, the more unhealthy we are.

Richard Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., professor and chairman of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, cited in Brody’s article, says that if we don’t do something to change the nature and structure of our neighborhood, the kids born since 1980 will be the first generation in this country to live shorter lives than their parents (source: NYTimes).

You might not think of where you live as negatively affecting you or your children’s health, but think about it this way, says Jackson: If your kids can’t walk or bike to anyplace safe or interesting nearby, they must rely on a ride somewhere—and in so doing, they give up their autonomy. You stop being able to do things or go places yourself; you feel isolated, disconnected.

The good news is that there more attention being paid now to the planning of healthier communities, as Brody reports. But it does make you realize how much physical activity and engagement we’ve engineered right out of our lives. What can you do to engineer it back in? Are there opportunities you and your family can create to do more walking and biking together? Where have you cut movement out that you can reintroduce in ways that are fun and practical?

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And see what other communities are doing to help each other live healthier lifestyles: