Out of Step in Bengaluru

Jan 19,2023

Pilot study of multiple localities puts walkability index of Bengaluru at 16.5 out of 30

The walkability infrastructure of Bengaluru falls under the ‘average’ category, according to a study conducted by researchers from St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences.

As per the pilot study done in multiple localities across the city, the walkability index of Bengaluru is 16.5 out of 30.

The researchers calculated the index by using standard variables on walking infrastructure in around 12 localities in central and west Bengaluru and found a score of 16.5, which was midway, suggesting that it can be improved.

“The walkability index is a measure of how the built environment (buildings, streets, sidewalks) is friendly to walking. The walkability index of the city can certainly be improved. Lack of sidewalks, traffic snarls, faded zebra crossings, perennial construction and repair work are some factors that may pose difficulties to pedestrians in the city,” said Dr Rebecca Kuriyan, professor and head, Division of Nutrition, St. John’s Research Institute, St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences.

The study found that the cases of obesity and overweight among school-going children in Bengaluru are going up due to the city’s walkability problems after examining the body mass index of as many as 292 children aged six to 15 years in the city. Around 20% of the children living in localities with poor walkability index were either overweight or obese. “We wanted to understand if there is any association between the walkability index and childhood obesity such as BMI and body fat.

We conducted a pilot study to ascertain this and found that the walkability index is negatively associated with BMI and the percentage of body fat in younger children. In the study population of children, 15% were overweight, while 5% were obese,” added Dr Kuriyan.

The researchers further added that since there seems to be an uptick in childhood obesity over the last few years, the need of the hour is optimal urban planning and transport policies to create and preserve built environments, with supportive infrastructure for active commuting such as walking and cycling. Healthcare experts agreed. According to Dr Namratha Upadhya, pediatrician, Aster RV Hospital, the major factors contributing to the rise in childhood obesity are increased consumption of energy-dense foods loaded with fats and sugar coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.

“The most common cause of obesity seen in children is exogenous or related to their food habits and sedentary lifestyle. Obesity can lead to serious consequences such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sleep problems, and musculoskeletal & behaviour changes. Simple day-to-day changes like walking up to a grocery store, a few blocks to board a bus or train, or taking stairs for short flights can help children lower their body fat,” said Dr Upadhya.