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Walking, Obesity and Urban design in Chinese Neighborhoods

Key Message

Walkable urban design is tied to walking and cycling for commuting, non-commuting and exercise.


Alfonzo, Mariela, et al. (2014). Walking, obesity and urban design in Chinese neighborhoods. Preventive Medicine. 69: S79–S85. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.10.002


Reflecting on China's high rates of obesity and chronic diseases, the researchers set out to explore the impact of the built environment on physical activity in six densely populated neighborhoods in Shanghai and Hangzhou. The chosen communities encompassed urban core, inner-suburban, and outer-suburban areas. Each was inventoried for ease of walking and bicycling, inclusive of such features as sidewalks, street trees, benches, street widths, and curb cuts. Also, the communities were audited for barriers to pedestrians and bicyclists, such as vendors and parked cars obstructing sidewalks, visible air pollution, bicycle lane hindrances, and overhead pedestrian bridges, which require greater exertion to use to cross the street.


Six neighborhoods with different built environment characteristics, located in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou, were studied. Data on walking and other physical activity and obesity levels from 1070 residents were collected through a street intercept survey conducted in 2013. Built environment features of 527 street segments were documented using the Irvine–Minnesota Inventory-China (IMI-C) environmental audit. Data were analyzed using the State of Place™ Index.

Walking rates, household income and Body Mass Index (BMI) were related; neighborhoods with a higher State of Place™ Index were associated with higher rates of walking.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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