Living life in a healthy way can feel like a mutually exclusive task. Fortunately, recent research points to a much more natural way to maintain a healthy lifestyle: live in a healthy neighborhood. Here’s what to look for when shopping for your next home’s location.
1. Grocery Stores
If you live near a grocery store, you have easy access to fresh produce, which has been linked to lower obesity rates. In fact, a multistate study has found that only one additional grocery store in a census tract can increase produce consumption among residents by 32 percent, according to PolicyLink.org. So not only will you eat more peas and carrots, you’ll also be more likely to walk to the store to buy them in the first place. Win, win.
You are more likely to engage in an active lifestyle if your neighborhood includes resources for exercise and recreation, like parks and playgrounds. The National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences reports that living near green spaces can decrease mortality. Plus, parks and playgrounds increase social interaction and mental health while the vegetation helps decrease stress and exposure to harmful pollutants.
A neighborhood with a network of sidewalks that are in good condition is a neighborhood that encourages walking. In fact, a survey commissioned by Kaiser Permanente indicates that people who live in a more walkable neighborhood — characterized by good sidewalks, low crime and safe traffic — walk more. Sidewalks with well-connected streets, smaller blocks and more intersections also encourage more activity because you can walk to your destination along routes that are shorter, quieter and more direct.
4. Bike Paths
Let’s face it: the stationary bike you received for Christmas last year is collecting dust in the basement next to your snowboard and your old high school yearbooks. (It’s OK, it happens to the best of us.) But imagine driving home after work and seeing your neighbor pop off her bike after a brisk ride home, all energetic and peaceful. Seeing others bike to and from work may inspire you to do the same, and living near a great network of bike paths will certainly make you more likely to give it a try.
Not everyone can find the time or muster enough love for the outdoors to make walking a successful exercise regimen. For more structured indoor activity, search for neighborhoods near a gym that offers fun group fitness classes like Zumba. A gym like 24 Hour Fitness is a great solution because it provides a variety of group fitness classes to all members at no additional fee.
6. Community Services
Public gathering places that serve the community, like a local restaurant or library, foster good emotional health by encouraging feelings of mutual trust and connectedness among neighbors.