Is your neighborhood hazardous to your health?

When you’re buying a home, its impact on your health may not be the first thing on your mind, but perhaps it should be! The data is clear that your health and well-being are significantly impacted by the people with whom your spend your time, and since most of us spend a good deal of time with our neighbors, picking the right street counts for more than curb appeal.

Neighborhoods “influence the extent to which people adopt and maintain behaviors linked to obesity,” says Dr. Mahasin S. Mujahid of Harvard University’s School of Public Health in Boston. “Even highly motivated individuals will find it very difficult to be more physically active and eat healthy foods if they live in environments that do not help support these lifestyles.”

You know the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” From Dr. Mujahid’s quote above, it appears the same could be said for neighborhoods! Once you move in, you are very likely to adopt the lifestyle practices that those in your neighborhood uphold. That means if there’s a daily running group at 5AM or a Thursday night volleyball league, you just may be inspired to join them. Likewise, if the normal Friday night involves all you can eat nachos and margaritas at the local Mexican place, you’re likely to adopt the same practices yourself.

So, when you are looking for a new home, consider looking for clues such as: Who is out running, biking, or walking at various times of day? Is there a pool? Is there a basketball court (or lots of driveways with hoops)? Tennis courts? Is there a gym or fitness center close by?

If you have been able to attend a party or two in the neighborhood before you move in, what is the food like? Is it a healthy spread with salads and fruits or is it unhealthy burgers, brats, and chips? What restaurants are close by and how many of them serve fast food? Pay attention to these clues to get a preview of what life as a resident might be like.

Of course you can have a positive influence on your surroundings as well. No running group? Start one! Bring a big salad to the block party and introduce your neighbors to your healthy lifestyle. But if you want to make it easier on yourself, you’ll choose a healthy neighborhood up front. Doing so can make a big difference in your own health and well-being, which means it’s worth keeping an eye out for healthy neighbors along with that 3 car garage and finished basement!

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