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Living in a less ‘walkable’ area could increase a child’s risk of asthma

Living in a less ‘walkable’ area could increase a child’s risk of asthma

Researchers in Canada have found a potential link between living in neighbourhoods that are less easy to walk around and asthma in children.

The study, published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, used data collected from a larger research project which monitored the health of 326,383 children born between 1997 and 2003 in Greater Toronto.

Researchers looked at the children’s health information to see whether they developed asthma – and, if so, whether this carried on throughout their childhood. They also assessed how ‘walkable’ the neighbourhood where each child lived was. ‘Walkability’ was based on how many people lived there, how many buildings there were, how easy it was to access places like schools and shops, and how well the streets were connected to each other.

After looking at these two measures against each other, the scientists found that children born into less ‘walkable’ areas were at a higher risk of developing asthma. They also found that, for children with asthma, living in areas where it was more difficult to walk around meant that they were more likely to continue having symptoms.

These results were the same even when other factors that could affect a person’s likelihood of getting asthma – like gender, premature (early) birth, neighbourhood income, obesity and allergic conditions – were considered.

Based on their findings, the researchers say that there could be a relationship between a lack of physical activity and children developing asthma. They recommend making communities easier to walk around in – such as by adding paths and by placing grocery shops close to where people live.

Read the full press release.

Read the abstract of the journal article.

Download our ‘Your lungs and exercise’ factsheet.