Poor urban design discourages walking & biking, encourages heavier citizens in KC

A Kansas City Star article summarizes recent research showing how urban design affects activity level, and thus fitness level, and thus obesity level of citizens:
Of course, the reasons Americans are getting more obese, no matter where they live, usually start with eating habits or exercise routines. But those are things each individual has control over. Researchers for a study published in the fall issue of the National Journal of Health Promotion isolated something we have less control over: daily activity levels based on the neighborhoods we live in.

In a nutshell, residents of far-flung suburban subdivisions typically walk less in their everyday lives than residents of compact urban neighborhoods. And the research shows that because Kansas City is one of the nation's most sprawling regions — where subdivisions are separated from stores and churches and parks, forcing residents to drive everywhere — we pack a few more pounds than people in many other areas, based solely on our everyday physical activity, or lack thereof.
The difference amounts to about 6 pounds for a 160 pound person, but is more on average for heavier people--as much as 10 pounds difference, just because of the neighborhood and urban design of the city the person lives in.
“We think this shows people in these more sprawling areas have a harder time getting out and getting routine activity, like just getting around on foot or bicycle,'' said Barbara McCann, a health and land- policy consultant who wrote part of the new findings with University of Maryland professor Reid Ewing. “It's an indication the basic fitness level is lower.”