Development & Alumni Relations Office 

IMPACT OF CITY DESIGN ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN INDIA 

20 June 2016

An international team, led by public health researchers at Queen’s, has conducted the first ever study into the impact of the built environment on levels of exercise and physical activity among people in India.

Queen’s researchers completed the study in collaboration with partners from Washington University in St. Louis and North Carolina University in the United States. They wanted to examine how the built environment in India plays a key role in enabling or prohibiting physical exercise in the country.

Speaking about the study, Dr Deepti Adlakha from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: “While there have been many studies examining this issue in Europe, Australasia and the Americas, there have been few in low and middle-income countries like India, which are collectively home to 80 per cent of the world’s population.

“Our study is the first of its kind in India, a country where rapid, unplanned and unsustainable urban growth is contributing to increasing environmental and health hazards, greater dependence on vehicles for transport, and diminishing open spaces for walking and leisure.”

Dr Adlakha continued: “Non-communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease are also increasing around the world, particularly in low and middle-income countries. India, with a population of 1.2 billion and soon to be the world’s most populous country, is experiencing an epidemic of these conditions.

“Physical inactivity is a major risk factor in the development of these diseases, and the built environment is a key factor in encouraging or inhibiting this. Activity-friendly environments are crucial if we are to halt the epidemic of non-communicable diseases. This is a fact that has already been acknowledged by the World Health Organization and United Nations.”

Conducted in Chennai, 370 Chennai residents were asked questions on their perception of the built environment in their neighbourhood and about their engagement in physical activity.

Chennai, the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, is a major commercial and industrial hub. Home to 8.9 million people, it is India’s fourth most populous city. Researchers found that those living there felt their physical activity was limited by the city’s inadequate infrastructure, poor aesthetics, and limited public transit connectivity.

Respondents outlined several barriers including safety from traffic and crime, poor quality pedestrian infrastructure and an increase in traffic.

Speaking about the findings, Dr Adlakha said: “The research findings provide an important insight into how the people of Chennai view their built environment, and how it might be improved or adapted to help promote physical activity.

“This study has the potential to be adapted further for use in other Indian cities. It is an important first step in creating better walkable environments, and ultimately healthier lifestyles, for those living in India’s urban areas.”

Media inquiries to Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) or Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) at Queen’s University Communications Office T: +44 (0)28 9097 5310.

 

 

 

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