Better Urban Design Can Increase Happiness and Sexiness

Obesity is a growing problem in North America and it looks like this health issue will continue to grow. There are many contributing factors to what’s referred to as an obesity epidemic, and some designers think that we can curb at least one contributing factor: poor urban planning. Not coincidentally, places with a higher proportion of obesity have low density planning.

What if we changed the low density planning to something more walkable and liveable?

Walking and biking, on the other hand, not only make us fit, but they also both improve mental health. Oxytocin—the same chemical released during sex and breastfeeding, that reduces stress and increases trust and empathy—is released during outdoor exercise. (Indoor exercise, interestingly, doesn’t have the same effect).

There are many things that need to change in urban planning and design, but one of the most basic is this: we need to define success differently. Right now, engineers make many decisions based on something called “level of service”—basically, how long cars are delayed at certain points. Our goals should be based on people, not cars. Right now, a busy commercial street would be judged a transportation failure even though it’s a social and economic success. We need to change the way we measure, so designers can make the right decisions.

Read more at to find out where the sexiness comes in.

Fight Fat with Urban Design

People in urban centres walk more and are generally more active than those who live in the suburbs, which is great for urbanites but not so great for the health of suburban dwellers. Years of poor urban planning in the suburbs have had a negative effect on the health of those who live there, which is most visible in increased obesity rates. In the suburbs of Toronto, Peel region is leading in new urban planning that encourages people to live a healthier life.

Instead of telling people what they shouldn’t do they are encouraging people to live healthy through passive, barely noticeable ways.

The health-minded policies, many of them pushed through despite strong opposition, are starting to pay off, said Dr. Karen Lee, a Canadian who is the director of Built Environment and Active Design in the New York Department of Health and Hygiene.

She cited a 289 per cent increase in commuter cycling, a 37 percent drop in traffic fatalities, a 1.5 per cent decline in car traffic and a 5 per cent drop in car registration over the past decade. There’s even been a small reduction in the worrying statistics on childhood obesity.

Many of the ideas are environmentally friendly and accessible but not necessarily expensive, said Lee. Posting signs near elevators that read “Burn calories, not electricity” can boost stair usage by 50 per cent. Drinking safe tap water is better for the environment than expensive bottled water.

“Neighbourhoods that are well designed for pedestrians are usually well designed for people with disabilities,” she said.

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Have the Fat Gene? Move!

The developed world is getting fatter and there’s everything you can do about it as an individual: be more active. As obvious as it sounds, being more physically active dramatically reduces your girth. The best part of some new research points out that even if you have a gene that predisposes you to obesity a little bit of physical activity can go a long way.

The obesity susceptibility gene is found in three-quarters of Europeans and North Americans. It is associated with a 20 per cent to 30 per cent increased risk of obesity.

“People who carry the gene but who are physically active have a reduced risk compared to people who carry the gene but are inactive,” Cambridge University medical researcher Ruth Loos said.

The findings highlight the importance of physical activity particularly in those genetically predisposed to be obese, Loos and her co-authors said in the journal PLoS Medicine.

“Physical activity gives them the opportunity to lose weight. So it goes against the often held view that if it’s in your genes, it’s out of your control,” Ross said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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