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Research reveals one lifestyle factor that can be a game-changer for pregnant people: 'Mom and the baby are both in better health'

Aside from benefits during pregnancy, walkable communities bring positives for all residents.

Aside from benefits during pregnancy, walkable communities bring positives for all residents.

Photo Credit: iStock

New research has revealed the benefits of living in walkable communities for pregnant people, resulting in improved health for both expectant parents and babies. 

In a study published in the journal Economics and Human Biology, summarized by News-Medical.net, scientists found that pregnant folks living in areas that encourage walking will likely have "fewer issues with premature births, low birth weight, gestational diabetes and hypertension." 

Karen Conway, a co-author of the study from the University of New Hampshire's Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, said: "Gestational diabetes is a growing issue and low birth weight and preterm babies are always a concern, they can just have so many more complications. 

"At the end of the day, the data shows walkable communities mean mom and the baby are both in better health."

In areas with a comparative 10-point increase in the walkability index — which would represent the difference between an area in the "least walkable" group to one in the "most walkable" bracket — pregnant people would typically partake in 70 minutes more exercise a week. 

This led to a 0.8 percentage point increase in the likelihood of a full-term birth, a 27-gram (about half a pound) increase in birth weight, and a 27% reduction in the likelihood of gestational diabetes, while hypertension was reduced by 16%. 

"Living in an area more suitable for walking gets people outside and interacting with neighbors and relating to others in the community and all of those types of social and intrinsic activities can contribute to better overall health," Conway added.

Aside from benefits during pregnancy, walkable communities bring positives for all residents.

Real estate service Redfin has said that communities that have higher walkability can get a 23% boost in average property value. 

Furthermore, since walkable towns and cities generally experience lower vehicle traffic, this can lead to improved air quality because of a reduction in particulate matter and pollution emitted from the tailpipes of dirty fuel–powered cars and trucks.

Walking can also bring significant health benefits, with Harvard University observing that it counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes and can even reduce cravings for sugary snacks. 

Such activity can also ease joint pain, reduce the risk of breast cancer, and lead to improved immune function. 

Community benefits can be seen, too. In Montreal, for example, closing neighborhood areas to traffic in the summer has allowed for a 1.5-mile pedestrian promenade.

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