'We are designed for walking'... Evidence shows that creating walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods, that make us feel valued and safe, can improve our mental and physical health.
The Prince’s Foundation, with partners Kellogg College, Oxford and the new Global Centre on Healthcare and Urbanisation, recently (Tuesday 14 September) launched a report compiling the evidence that exists between walking, accessibility and health to make the strong case for why new places need to be designed around those principles.
The findings clearly suggest that our health and wellbeing is majorly affected by the environment in which we live. Well-designed, walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods can have a positive effect on both our mental and physical health. Indeed, one study presented found that walking just an hour a day reduced mortality risk by 70% in elderly men. By designing places where people can easily walk to school, shops, work places and parks, significant health benefits can be realised with little effort. This also, in turn, addresses the climate emergency by reducing car dependency and as such vehicle pollution and carbon emissions. It also makes the streets safer for people and particularly children.
The report includes a fascinating essay by GP Dr William Bird, exploring the links between stress and the environment, and a framing piece from Ben Bolgar, Senior Director of The Prince’s Foundation, setting the research in context. This is supplemented by a rich array of evidence-based reviews of relevant research literature on a variety of themes: the physiological and psychological benefits of walking; walkable neighbourhoods and well-being; the 15-minute city; the impacts of building design and materials on human, and environmental health; and the historical importance of public spaces.
The report can be found here.