Living by urban trails might make you healthier

Can a better built environment lead to positive effects on health outcomes?  A study done by CHRIM Investigators Drs. Jon McGavock and Kelly Russell, has found that urban trails can lead to better cardiovascular health, specifically if you live close to a trail.

Between 2008 and 2010, the City of Winnipeg built four, paved, multiuse trails running through approximately 60 neighborhoods. The trails range from 4 -7 kilometers and are all mainly in suburban areas. Important findings from this study found that people who lived within 400 meters of the trails had lower rates of risks to their cardiovascular health, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

The important discoveries made in this project are the result of equitable partnerships between Winnipeg Trails Association, The City of Winnipeg, and researchers from across Canada.

“CHRIM provided invaluable resources by supporting trainees, coordinating media and recruitment, and facilitating community partnerships.”

Dr. McGavock, CHRIM Researcher and University of Manitoba Professor

The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) played an integral role in the study by providing the health administrative data from the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository. Another interesting way that this study collected data was through the use electronic counters which were able to capture trail use data by cyclists. These counting devices were placed at 10 locations through the four trails and collected data 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The study found that 20 kilometers of trails attracted 5,000 cyclists every week.

Next steps for
Dr. McGavock and his team include expanding their work to more cities in Canada and partnering with Indigenous organizations and Elders to identify and overcome inequities in access to trails.

Dr. McGavock says they will also aim to determine the best practices for implementing trails that will improve the health of families so that city planners in Canada can adopt these practices.

Read more about the previous phase of this study