Healthier Cities for the Growing Urban Population
Urbanization has grown drastically around the globe - In 1975, only 4 Megacities (cities that occupy more than 10 million people) existed; today in 2017, there are 39. Recently, this growth has shifted to smaller cities. Realtors and large companies caught on to megacity growth and quickly bought up property to build luxury apartments and buildings - skyrocketing the cost of living, driving the younger and lower to middle class population away. These people, including a handful of startup companies, are choosing to live in smaller, cheaper cities for more space and potential for growth.
However, the lifestyle that attracted millions of people to cities is drastically affecting our health and wellbeing. Long work hours coupled with our continued reliance on technology has caused us to spend over 11 hours a day staring at digital devices and spend more time sitting than we do sleeping! A recent York University study concluded that our body weight is impacted by our lifestyle and environment; stress, timing of food intake and even nighttime light exposure all affect how we gain or lose weight. The Millennial and Gen Y generations that grew up with technology are especially prone to an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, the same study showed that Millennials and Gen Y's need to work harder to lose weight than any other generation before them when they were their age.
Fortunately, cities are finding ways to fight unhealthy lifestyles by making it easier for their residents to participate in healthier alternatives. Through the city's design and architecture as well as its entertainment and community programs, healthier options and activities are encouraged, almost subliminally in some cases.
One town in Minnesota redesigned their town to support "Blue Zone" characteristics - factors, discovered by National Geographic reporter, Dan Buettner, that lead to long, happy, healthy lives. More sidewalks and garden plots were installed to promote active, social lifestyles. Menus were revamped to nudge people to choose healthier meal options by listing them first on menus. Eventually, local small businesses and the community voluntarily joined the movement as the makeover progressed at a gradual, gentle speed. The makeover was a success for both the residents and the town in more ways than one - life expectancy raised and healthcare costs were lowered by 40%.
Today, the city that CAMA calls home, is holding their annual bike race, The New Haven Grand Prix. The event allows New Haven to showcase their bike-friendly environment, ultimately encouraging its residents to try biking through the city for themselves. Events like these not only showcase healthy lifestyles but strengthen the community bond as well - in it's third year, the New Haven Grand Prix is quickly becoming one of the city's top summer events. Even if bicycling isn't an interest to some residents, they might be drawn down to the race even so to attend the New Haven Apizza & Eats festival which is partnered with the bike race event - after all, a healthy lifestyle is all about balance.
What does your city or town do to promote active, healthy lifestyles? Let us know in the comments.