City planning is key to the heath of its citizens, with the quantity of parks and other amenities playing a crucial role in the quality of life and health of the nation’s citizens, according to the latest research conducted by the University of Melbourne.

In a 10 year study, researchers from the university examined how the amount of daily walking increased as a result of access to parks, public transport, shops and services amongst the residents of a new housing development in Perth.

Lead researcher Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Director of the McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing at the University says that the study provides long-term evidence that suggests that 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 said. 

The study examined the impact of urban planning on active living in metropolitan Perth. More than 1,400 participants building homes in new housing developments were surveyed before relocation to new homes and approximately 12 months later.

The study found that for every local shop, residents’ physical activity increased an extra 5-6 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. 
“This means that where there is an environment that supports walking with access to multiple facilities residents walked much more,” Professor Giles-Corti said.

These findings could inform public health and urban design policy demonstrating that people respond to an environment that is supportive of physical activity.
“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,” Professor Giles-Corti said.