Building New Environments for Healthier Routines

Park-deCordova Photo courtesy of deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.

A trend towards technology driven, less active American lifestyles has resulted in a heavy and unhealthy nation. Busy families are surrounded by fast-food restaurants instead of farmers’ markets and grocery stores with fresh produce. Desk jobs keep Americans sedentary and, in neighborhoods deemed unsafe, residents are less likely to get regular exercise by walking after work or on the weekends. If it’s true that a person’s environment can shape their health as significantly as genetics, then these scenarios have got to change.

Recently, the concept of a “Built Environment” has arisen to remedy the problem. It involves the purposeful development of a city, community space or designated green space with the goal of increasing community health. Built environments encourage inhabitants to walk more, move more and, sometimes, to perform more laborious work. Adding art to a park or green space is one way to create a built environment, and the deCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts, is such a place. With a large selection of eye-catching outdoor sculptures, the park offers visitors an afternoon of exploration and enjoyable walking.

City planners and public health researchers around the United States have applied the built environment concept to public parks and walkways. By strategically placing artwork along a path, a relaxing day in the park turns into a pleasant walk. This slight but significant change in design may go unnoticed by visitors, but the positive health implications include more calories burned, more minutes of light-to-moderate exercise performed and a healthier community.

Building healthy environments includes making new decisions about our existing surroundings and routines. Parking further away from work or home and walking the difference is one example. In fact, people can often save money by walking to work or school, or parking in a separate garage or an offsite parking lot. Walking on a daily basis can significantly improve health, and making physical activity a natural part of one’s daily activities can result in weight loss, greater fitness and increased energy for the workday. Regular exercise also prevents heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and even certain types of cancer.

By making exercise and healthy food choices easy, enjoyable and accessible, American families have a better chance at reversing the alarming rates of preventable diseases.

Dr. Eric Roseen is a chiropractic physician at Visions HealthCare, with locations at 170 Worcester St., in Wellesley, and 910 Washington St., in Dedham. For more information, call 781-431-1333 or visit

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