Sociology

Health Benefits of Living in a Suburb or the City Centre



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Living in the city and living in the suburbs both have health benefits and drawbacks.  One is not necessarily better than the other but the effects on health are different. 

Health effects of the city

The main advantage of living in the city is that you’ll probably do more exercise.  Most things will be within walking distance and in some cases you don’t even have a choice.  For example, shopping in a pedestrianised city centre is a rather better workout than driving to the mall.  Although you probably won’t notice, you’ll be walking a few miles up and down hills, which burns off more calories than strolling from shop to shop and going up and down a few escalators.

On the downside, air pollution tends to be worse in city centres.  It can lead to a range of nasty ailments including bronchitis, and asthma in children, as well as exacerbating any existing lung or heart problems.  If you know you are in a vulnerable group then check the air quality index before deciding to move to the centre of a city.

Health effects of the suburbs

However in the suburbs the air might be cleaner, as there are more trees and less traffic congestion.  Better still you’ll probably have a garden, which most inner-city dwellers don’t.  Gardening is a healthy activity for you, and your children have the chance to play outside every day.  This is a lot better for them than playing computer games all day because there is nowhere to go.

The disadvantages of living in the suburbs are the flip side of the city advantages.  Most people who live in the suburbs end up driving more and walking less, as nothing is particularly close.  This leads to weight gain and general lack of fitness.  Those medium sized journeys that suburb dwellers need to do could be done on a bicycle, although this is not always practical or even possible.

A less obvious effect of having to commute is little time for cooking.  If a considerable portion of your time is spent getting to and from work, it is tempting to rely heavily on junk food, ready meals and takeaways.  None of these is very healthy and too many can lead to obesity and the associated health problems.

Whether you live in the suburbs or the city there are ways to make the most of the advantages and mitigate the disadvantages.  For example if air pollution is a serious problem then pressurise local government to do something about it.  If you are short of time then bulk-cook nutritious meals and freeze portions.  Finally, don’t forget to take full advantage of the exercise opportunities you have in the city or the suburbs.

More about this author: Judith Willson

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