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People who live in walkable and transit-supportive neighbourhoods have more options for getting to school, work, services and recreation opportunities. This means less traffic on roads, more opportunities for physical activity, and lower costs for travel. People who are more active have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases including diabetes, heart diseases, and some cancers. Less traffic means less noise and air pollution and fewer vehicle-related injuries and deaths. In addition, people who save money on travel can direct more of their resources to other necessities such as food, rent and clothing.


Physical Activity is Good for Physical and Mental Health

Physical activity produces many health benefits. It can reduce the risk of over 25 chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis (PHAC, 2011). It has been estimated that physical inactivity is costing Canada billions of dollars every year in health-related costs due to escalating rates of chronic diseases (Janssen, 2012). Physical activity is also good for mental health. It can improve sleep, relieve stress, anxiety and depression, and reduce reliance on drugs and alcohol. It also supports cognitive functioning in older people and delays the onset of dementia (Bingham, 2009).

Unfortunately, most people in Canada do not get the levels of physical activity required to maintain good health (Colley et al., 2011). Many people identify the lack of time as a major barrier to physical activity. With active modes of transportation, people can incorporate physical activity into their daily lives by replacing time spent in the car with walking, cycling or some other form of active travel (CFLRI, 1996).

Neighbourhood Features that Foster Active Modes of Transportation

Physical features of our neighbourhood, such as how sidewalks connect to each other, intersection and residential density, how close transit stops are, and having a mix of commercial and residential buildings are associated with increased levels of physical activity (Christie et al. 2021).

Neighbourhoods that make it safe, efficient and easy to reach common destinations such as restaurants, grocery stores, schools and transit stops are more “walkable”. People in these neighbourhoods engage in more physical activity, know more of their neighbours and have more frequent social interactions, which all have a positive impact on their physical and mental health.

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