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Living in areas with higher neighborhood walkability lowers risk of gestational diabetes

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Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant Womens’ Health, CMD and Editor-in-Chief, IJCP Group & Medtalks Trustee, Dr KK’s Heart Care Foundation of India    06 February 2023

Pregnant women who live in areas with higher neighborhood walkability have lower risk of gestational diabetes, suggests a new research published in in the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.1

 

Scientists from the United States conducted a cross-sectional study to determine if higher neighborhood walkability had any impact on the risk of gestational diabetes among pregnant women in New York City. For this they analysed the Neighborhood Walkability Index scores calculated using variables like residential density, street connectivity, land use mix and access to public transit. Data from 109,863 births recorded in 2015 was analysed.

 

Overall, 7.5% of pregnant women developed gestational diabetes. After adjusting for age, race and ethnicity, parity, education, place of birth, marital status and socioeconomic status, when data was compared between women residing in the highest quartile and those living in the lowest quartile of walkability, it was found that with increase in the NWI scores by 20% between the two, the risk of gestational diabetes decreased. When density of walkable destinations was examined, pregnant women in the highest quartile of walkable destinations lowered their risk of gestational diabetes by 23% than those living in the lowest quartile.

 

The findings of this study have implications for urban planners. Neighborhood walkability should be given high priority when planning townships or even housing societies to encourage the residents to adopt an active lifestyle. It is a preventive health measure to reduce the incidence of lifestyle disorders such as type 2 diabetes.

 

Walking is the best form of exercise; it requires no investment, no special training or special equipment. It is also a safe exercise for pregnant women. The beneficial effects of walking on health are well-established. Walking in natural environments such as parks or in green neighborhoods releases endorphins, the happy hormones, which relieve stress and promote mental well-being. It enhances the shift from the sympathetic (disturbed) to parasympathetic (relaxed) state of mind manifesting as lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate and blood glucose levels, as shown in this study. Regular physical activity has positive beneficial effect on both the mother and her baby.

 

Reference

 

  1. Rundle AG, et al. Neighbourhood walkability is associated with risk of gestational diabetes: A cross-sectional study in New York City. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2023 Jan 12. doi: 10.1111/ppe.12952.

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