I recently read yet another analysis that indicated that living in a dense urban setting is more beneficial for maintaining or losing weight, with San Francisco finishing on top. Of course these urban dwellers tend to be younger and more affluent, so it is not just where they live that influences weight.
Urban areas typically have more specialty "slow food" options, with alternatives to the higher fat containing fare of “fast food” restaurants. Urban areas often have more health clubs and fitness centers per 1,000 people.
But probably the most important aspect urban living is the absence of the car. More urbanites walk or bike to work or to mass transit stations than suburbanites. Not having a vehicle means that shopping is more frequent and limited to what can be comfortably carried back home. In other words, urbanites burn more weekly calories because their lifestyle requires more frequent outings for life’s necessities. This may be instructional for us suburbanites and our pets.
The Car is King in the Suburbs
Because the suburbs are characterized by large housing sub-divisions and more restrictive zoning regulations, the distances to desired destinations, particularly restaurants and grocery stores, are generally further than experienced in the urban setting. But because we have a car we often choose distant destinations than closer alternatives. Lacking the mass transit alternatives of urban settings, we are more likely to jump in the car and drive to a shopping mall or specialty retailer (Best Buy, Costco, Wal-Mart, etc.) rather than choose local alternatives.
Suburbanites are more likely to have children and to schlep them great distances for their cultural (music or dance lessons) or athletic interests (soccer, karate, gymnastics, swimming), while urban dwellers are more likely to be single or dual income/no kids without the need for a car for these activities. Suburbanites average 2.25 vehicles per household. Driving burns few calories.
Live Like an Urbanite
Despite the perception of vast distances in the suburbs, most housing developments are within 1-2 miles of a strip mall containing a supermarket or specialty market. Strip malls with specialty "slow food" alternatives are often overlooked.
While visiting my daughter in Washington, DC, and participating in the urban no-car lifestyle, I was struck by the fewer numbers of overweight or obese individuals. This was unlike the Inland Empire where I live, where overweight or obese are the norm. In fact, San Bernardino and Riverside were classified as the worst places to live and manage weight in the analysis that sparked this post.
So I have decided to think and shop more like an urbanite. Rather than take the car and shop for the whole week, I walk to the market or specialty market one and a half miles from home and purchase what I need for 1 or 2 meals, or what can be comfortably carried home. I actually enjoy this additional exercise because the grocery bags add weight, causing greater calorie expenditure. Next is to enjoy more "slow food" in our town’s village two miles from home.
How Does this Help Pets?
Pets can benefit by this urban mentality. Consider shopping with a neighbor or friend who can watch your dog while you’re in shops, or paying the kid next door to go along to watch the dog(s). That way they are not unattended while you shop.
In my little town, many "slow food" restaurants allow pets at the patio or sidewalk tables. Retailers are becoming more tolerant of well-behaved dogs in their stores.
Just a thought: Live like an urbanite, move more, move the dog more, shop local, and burn less fossil fuel. Everybody wins.
Dr. Ken Tudor