Walkable neighborhoods are linked to safer pregnancies.

Walkable neighborhoods are linked to safer pregnancies.

Walkable Neighborhoods Encourage Exercise for Pregnant Women


Walkable neighborhoods with sidewalks, parks, and paths not only promote a healthier lifestyle but also encourage pregnant women to get more exercise, resulting in positive outcomes for both mom and baby. According to recent research, these walkable communities play a crucial role in influencing physical activity during pregnancy, which is generally considered safe for expectant mothers.

Gestational diabetes and low birth weight are major concerns during pregnancy as they can lead to various complications. Karen Conway, a professor at the University of New Hampshire Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, states, “At the end of the day, the data shows walkable communities mean mom and the baby are both in better health.”

To explore this further, Conway, along with co-author Andrea Menclova, an associate professor of economics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, combined walkability measures created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with federal government data on physical activity and pregnancy outcomes.

The study found that a 10-point increase in the walkability index, equivalent to transitioning from the “least walkable” to the “most walkable” category, was associated with a significant increase in weekly exercise among pregnant women—more than 70 additional minutes of exercise. Additionally, this increase in walkability was linked to several positive outcomes, including a higher likelihood of a full-term birth and a 27-gram (nearly 1 ounce) increase in birth weight. Furthermore, there was a 27% reduction in the likelihood of gestational diabetes and a 16% reduction in high blood pressure.

Interestingly, the study did not find a clear link between walking and a mother’s weight gain or high birth weight in the baby. This suggests that the benefits of exercise during pregnancy may extend beyond weight management.

“We know that walkability may have other health benefits beyond encouraging more exercise,” says Conway. “Living in an area more suitable for walking gets people outside and interacting with neighbors and relating to others in the community, and all of those types of social and intrinsic activities can contribute to better overall health.”

This study is part of a broader field of health economics that aims to analyze factors and policies affecting health outcomes using established data. The goal is to provide evidence that can inform policymakers and local governments about cost-effective interventions to improve residents’ health outcomes.

The findings of this research were published in the August edition of the journal Economics & Human Biology.

More Information

For more information on exercise during pregnancy, visit the March of Dimes.


University of New Hampshire, news release, Aug. 17, 2023

Image ###### QUESTION The first sign of pregnancy is most often: See Answer