MU researchers to study how changes in infrastructure affect physical activity behavior

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The American Obesity Association reports that 64.5 percent of adults in the United States are overweight and 30.5 percent are obese. Now, in an effort to help fight obesity, University of Missouri-Columbia researchers will take part in a new pilot project in four states that will determine whether changes to a community's infrastructure can encourage physical activity, such as walking or bicycling.

MU researchers are taking advantage of a unique opportunity, provided by the city of Columbia's role in the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, to study how changes in infrastructure of a community can affect the physical activity behavior of its residents. The study is funded by a $200,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"We are facing an obesity epidemic in our country," said Steve Sayers, assistant professor of physical therapy in the MU School of Health Professions at MU. "Much of the problem can be linked to the sedentary lifestyle of modern society and our lack of physical activity."

Physical activity is vital in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, but over the past 50 years, physical activity has been engineered out of daily lifestyles, Sayers said. The ways in which cities are organized and built now favor motorized transportation and discourage physical activity. People no longer walk to school, work, the grocery store, or other places they go regularly.

As part of the federally funded pilot program, Columbia has received a $25 million grant to fund the completion of comprehensive bicycling and walking networks, such as sidewalks, bike lanes and trails. These networks would help people reach transit stations, businesses, schools, homes and other destinations without using their cars. Three other communities in the United States have received such a grant: Marin County, Calif., Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. and Sheboygan County, Wis.


Contact: Christian Basi
University of Missouri-Columbia

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