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Good places to walk improve local health

It is no secret that regular physical activity — even if it is simply walking 30 minutes a day — can improve a person’s physical health and emotional well-being. As Christian County Health Director Mark Pyle said in a story about sidewalks and other factors affecting physical activity in neighborhoods, “If people in Christian County will consider walking 30 minutes per day, we could have an impact on our obesity rate.”

Pyle’s comment was related to a health poll conducted for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. It looked at the ways neighborhood conditions affect physical activity. Slightly more than half of the respondents said their neighborhood is an “excellent” or “very good” place to walk, jog or ride a bike. And among those who said their neighborhoods were “excellent” or “very good,” for these activities, 77 percent said they were physically active.

The results are not surprising. But the information is helpful, especially as communities plan new developments or look for ways to improve aging infrastructure.

We’re learning that good sidewalks can be critical to a community’s health. And many streets can be redesigned to include lanes for bicyclists.

These are important considerations for Kentucky communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the rate of obesity in Kentucky is 31.3 percent.

Increasingly, community planners and health professionals are crossing paths as we learn more about the ways a community’s “walkability” affects a person’s health. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, titled “Obesity Relationships with Community Design, Physical Activity and Time Spent in Cars,” reported that people who live in mixed-use neighborhoods with shops and businesses that are within walking distance lower their risk of obesity by 35 percent. Obesity is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes and colon cancer.

Hopkinsville will make a huge leap toward improving walkability when the first phase of the city’s recreational trail opens later this spring.

The city should keep looking for every opportunity to repair old sidewalks and build new ones that improve access to the recreational trail.

We see this as a web of access for the community. And we mean access to places and improved health.

— Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville

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