Research continues to show a correlation between the design of our communities and our health. People who live in safer, more walkable neighborhoods tend to exercise more and show more signs of good health than people who live in less walkable neighborhoods. But what is it about walkable communities that corresponds to better health?

A recent study of over 6,800 adults from fourteen cities in ten countries could provide some answers. Researchers investigated the amount of exercise each person completed per day and used various data to understand the land use characteristics of each person’s neighborhood. The study reports four land use characteristics consistent with exercise.

  1. Residential density: It takes a critical mass of homes in a neighborhood to support economically viable shops and amenities within walking distance.
  2. Intersection density: Well-connected streets tend to shorten travel distances and put more likely destinations within walking distance.
  3. Public transport density: More transit stops within walking distance make it more likely that residents have transit options and will elect to use them.
  4. Access to parks: Parks serve not only as places where people exercise but also as destinations people walk to and from, getting exercise as they do.

The greater the presence of these characteristics, the more likely study participants were to exercise. The reverse was also true.

Read more about the study here.