Walkable neighbourhoods and physical activity in Canada

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Release date: September 18, 2019

Infographic: Walkable neighbourhoods and physical activity in Canada
Description: Walkable neighbourhoods and physical activity in Canada

Walkable neighbourhoods and physical activity in Canada

"Walkability" assesses how well a neighbourhood supports physical activity. Walkability increases with:

  • well-connected streets
  • proximity of useful destinations like schools, workplaces, post offices, stores, and parks
  • higher population density

Each neighbourhood is assigned a walkability score from 1 to 5, with 1 being the least walkable and 5 being the most walkable.

Walkability score:

  • Class 1 (Least walkable) - Rural
  • Class 2 - Rural and suburbia
  • Class 3 - Suburbia
  • Class 4 - Suburbia and urban
  • Class 5 (Most walkable) - Urban

Adults in more walkable neighbourhoods are more active than those in less walkable neighbourhoods. The effect is much less pronounced in children and youth.

Average daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
  Least walkable Most walkable
Adults 20 38
Children 62 70

Children (5 to 11 years) engage in more free play when they live in less walkable neighbourhoods.

Average daily minutes of free play:

  • Class 1 (Least walkable) - 40 minutes
  • Class 2 - 36 minutes
  • Class 3 - 34 minutes
  • Class 4 - 32 minutes
  • Class 5 (Most walkable) - 29 minutes
Active transportation is higher in more walkable neighbourhoods
  Least walkable Most walkable
Youth 24 37
Adults 10 29
Walkability has little impact on recreational physical activity
  Least walkable Most walkable
Youth 39 35
Adults 16 17

Walkability and obesity

The share of adults aged 18 to 59 years classified as overweight or obese was 50% percent lower in the most walkable neighbourhoods compared to the least.

Sources: Colley RC, et al. The association between walkable neighbourhoods and physical activity across the lifespan. Health Reports 2019; 30(9): 3-13.
Colley RC, et al. An examination of the associations between walkable neighbourhoods and obesity and self-rated health in Canadians. Health Reports 2019; 30(9): 14-24.

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