Bruce Damonte

According to ARCHITECT's Blaine Brownell, a recent report from the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) included the alarming news that nearly 40 percent of American adults are obese.

The finding is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which also calculated an obesity rate of 18.5 percent among children. Meanwhile, a report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicated that approximately two-thirds of U.S. adults and 30 percent of children are either overweight or obese. Furthermore, accompanying health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are also on the rise.

According to the TFAH report, the “underlying causes of obesity are complex and interconnected, ranging from economic and policy dynamics to environmental influences, social norms, and individual and family factors.” But, the research also found "a link between built environments—all the human-made physical aspects of a community—and both physical activity and obesity.”

Although much emphasis has been placed on enhancements to outdoor spaces such as bike infrastructure and accessible sidewalks, far less has been done related to buildings. Yes, many feature gymnasiums, playgrounds, fitness centers, and other such environments to elevate human health and well-being. Yet the provision of such spaces is no longer adequate to address our burgeoning national epidemic of obesity and other inactivity-related conditions. Given that we spend roughly 90 percent of our time indoors, the design of interior environments can and should encourage more physical activity.

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