Manitoba study shows living near exercise trail lowers heart disease risk

A new study shows people living close to exercise trails are at a lower risk for heart disease.

The University of Manitoba-led study looked at Winnipeggers living within 400 meters of a trail – roughly 48,000 residents.

After analyzing traffic on the Yellow Ribbon Greenway, Northeast Pioneers Greenway, Transcona Trail and Southside Greenway, researchers observed a 12-15 per cent decrease of cardiovascular disease risk factors for those within 400-12,000 meters of a trail.

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The data also showed 20 kilometers of biking, walking and running trails brought in 5,000 cyclists per week. That’s 1.6 million bike rides over a period of five years.

“If you build it, they will come, and maybe even live longer,” said Dr. Jon McGavock, professor of pediatrics and child health at the University of Manitoba.

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McGavock said between 4,000 to 7,000 fewer Winnipeggers are at risk for heart disease since the trails’ construction in 2012.

But the level of impact depends on the trail itself.

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“Clearly, it is not enough to have a trail, it must be useful, nearby and part of a continuous network,” said Anders Swanson, executive director of Winnipeg Trails Association.

“Any given trail must also connect to the places where people need to go. When it does, it gets busier. The busier it is, and the more it connects to a mixture of uses, the more impactful it is in terms of cardiovascular disease.”

McGavock said the numbers show expanding the trails could reduce heart disease risk factors for more residents.

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