A University of Melbourne study recently revealed that residents of new housing developments increased their exercise and their well-being when they had more access to shops and parks.
The 10-year study found that the overall health of residents of new housing developments in Western Australia improved when their daily walking increased as a result of more access to parks, public transport, shops and services, the university said.
Lead researcher Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Director of the McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing at the University of Melbourne (in the university’s School of Population and Global Health, associated with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences) told the university that the study provided long-term evidence that residents’ walking increased with greater availability and diversity of local transport and recreational destinations.
“The study demonstrates the potential of local infrastructure to support health-enhancing behaviours,” she told the University of Melbourne.
The study examined the impact of urban planning on active living in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. More than 1,400 participants building homes in new housing developments were surveyed before relocation to new homes and approximately 12 months later, according to the university.
The study found that for every local shop, residents’ physical activity increased an extra five or six minutes of walking per week. For every recreational facility available such as a park or beach, residents’ physical activity increased by an extra 21 minutes per week, the University of Melbourne stated.
“This means that where there is an environment that supports walking with access to multiple facilities residents walked much more,” Giles-Corti told the university. These findings could inform public health and urban design policy demonstrating that people respond to an environment that is supportive of physical activity, according to the university.
“Given that being physically active reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, which are both huge costs to the health system, these results could have huge implications for government policy such as the Victorian State Government’s new Metropolitan Planning Strategy,” Giles-Corti told the university.
The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
The study will also likely be looked upon with interest by the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning. The University of Melbourne has a long history with architecture, building and planning studies, introducing Australia’s first studies in architecture in the 1860s. The Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning has an outstanding reputation for educating top-class professionals in the wide range of disciplines involved in the planning, design, production and management of the built and natural environment.
At the undergraduate level, the Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning offers the Bachelor of Environments program, allowing students to focus on a major study area in their second and third years. Within the Bachelor of Environments, students can choose their majors from architecture, construction, landscape architecture, landscape management, property and urban design.