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Researchers at the University of Alberta just published some interesting data from a six-year longitudinal study looking at links between neighbourhoods, physical activity and body-mass index. Of the people who moved during the study, those who chose new neighbourhoods based in part on walkability maintained their weight (as expected), while those who chose locations based on proximity to outdoor recreation opportunities (surprisingly) gained weight.
This is by no means a perfectly controlled experiement — for example, as the researchers point out, it could be that the subjects choosing to live near outdoor recreation were doing so primarily for their kids. But it certainly fits with other data, like the fact that New York City — highly walkable but terrible for outdoor recreation opportunities — is among the thinnest cities in the U.S. (42% of people there were overweight, compared to 67% nationally, according to a 2009 study). And it underlines the point that a healthy lifestyle is more dependent on the little things you do on a daily basis, rather than the big excursions you make on weekends.