Reducing Sprawl, Riding the Bus, and Losing Weight in America.


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There is a well-established relationship between exercise and weight in individuals. Recently, relationships between certain urban characteristics usually associated with less sprawl and more exercise, especially walking, have been found. This paper examines one probable less sprawl–more exercise–lower weight sequence by hypothesizing that counties in metropolitan areas with higher population density will have more people complete their journey to work by walking, biking, or taking public transportation, and therefore have fewer people who are overweight. Data on journey to work, population density and other urban characteristics from the U. S. Census, and on obesity rates and other health factors from the U. S. Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System were collected for 176 counties in metropolitan areas of the United States. The data is analyzed using Instrumental Variables (2SLS) Regression. A statistically significant relationship from population density through journey to work mode to obesity rates is found. This finding implies that arranging urban and suburban space with greater density and less sprawl encourages walking, biking, and taking transit and should help in the battle against obesity.