Sprawling waistlines

Remember all the fun we had talking about obesity in the last few months? We all know there's no substitute for exercise, and the essence of this truth is beautifully represented in the linear relationship between sprawl and weight:

The residents of the country's more sprawling counties tend to be heavier and have more weight-related chronic illnesses—particularly high blood pressure—than the residents of more densely populated counties....

...for every fifty-point increase in the degree of sprawl, the odds of a county resident's being obese rose by 10 percent. Cities encourage walking and physical fitness, the authors argue, whereas suburban homes are so far from friends, stores, and workplaces that even the most health-conscious residents are forced off the sidewalk and behind the wheel.

It's too bad they couldn't come up with a statistical slam dunk, like "each shopping plaza within 5 miles adds five pounds." And one wonders if the effects can't be explained by confounders like age or education (Manhattanites may be younger or more health-aware), but the authors insist they've accounted for that.

James Howard Kunstler, who has written eloquently about the effects of sprawl on our national psyche, should find this of interest. His first Eyesore of the Month was in Worcester, and other editions have targeted more... mobile eyesores.