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A B S T R A C T Cities are being built based on the concepts of the comfortable, easy, and fast for the inhabitants. However, what is being constructed is promoting physical inactivity, and people are finding that what was being considered as convenient for daily life is, in fact, harmful to their physical health. The life of a city relies on the activity of the inhabitants who are the breathing engine of the built environment. Hence, the balance between physical activity and mental activity (e.g., office work) should be maintained because the more people are physically healthy, the more they are productive and the more the city experiences economic growth which all leads to satisfaction and happiness among the city’s inhabitants. Therefore, a city that facilitates the reach to physical activity helps its inhabitants to overcome many physical health issues such as overweight and obesity, the causes of many physical complications that can affect mental health over time. This study points to the many components of a city that beats overweight issues and especially obesity. One of this healing city’s aspects is the presence of green spaces and the green mobility that typically promotes walking and cycling instead of driving cars. Moreover, this city could foster the healing of prolonged stress and overall mental health related to human inactivity. Its analysis is based on in-depth interviews and results of previous empirical research in urban planning, psychology, and neuroarchitecture regarding people's perception of the visual environment they live in.The case study is the city of Beirut: in-depth interviews were conducted with a representative sample of Beirutis (people whose families come from the Beirut city and who were born in this city and are still living in it). These interviews helped measure these participants’ satisfaction with the physical activities and social life that is accessible for all the inhabitants through inclusive urban planning (such as clean open spaces, parks, sidewalks, free or inexpensive public spaces, facilities for green transportation, etc.). The results of the interviews analysis were supported with past data demonstrating the increasing obesity issues in Lebanon and previous data in urban and psychological studies that expound the way the brain processes the urban spaces that increase satisfaction and the urban areas that the city should be offering to its inhabitants for positive health outcomes. The results uncovered the cycle of physical health, mental health, and social contacts which altogether affect the soul of a city where the aim is first and foremost the right to a healthy lifestyle.

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Shaping the City that Decreases Overweight and Obesity through Healthy Built Environment * PhD candidate.MARIA A. EL HELOU1 1Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece E Mail: maelhelou@arch.auth.gr A B S T R A C T Cities are being built based on the concepts of the comfortable, easy, and fast for the inhabitants. However, what is being constructed is promoting physical inactivity, and people are finding that what was being considered as convenient for daily life is, in fact, harmful to their physical health. The life of a city relies on the activity of the inhabitants who are the breathing engine of the built environment. Hence, the balance between physical activity and mental activity (e.g., office work) should be maintained because the more people are physically healthy, the more they are productive and the more the city experiences economic growth which all leads to satisfaction and happiness among the city’s inhabitants. Therefore, a city that facilitates the reach to physical activity helps its inhabitants to overcome many physical health issues such as overweight and obesity, the causes of many physical complications that can affect mental health over time. This study points to the many components of a city that beats overweight issues and especially obesity. One of this healing city’s aspects is the presence of green spaces and the green mobility that typically promotes walking and cycling instead of driving cars. Moreover, this city could foster the healing of prolonged stress and overall mental health related to human inactivity. Its analysis is based on in-depth interviews and results of previous empirical research in urban planning, psychology, and neuroarchitecture regarding people's perception of the visual environment they live in.The case study is the city of Beirut: in-depth interviews were conducted with a representative sample of Beirutis (people whose families come from the Beirut city and who were born in this city and are still living in it). These interviews helped measure these participants’ satisfaction with the physical activities and social life that is accessible for all the inhabitants through inclusive urban planning (such as clean open spaces, parks, sidewalks, free or inexpensive public spaces, facilities for green transportation, etc.). The results of the interviews analysis were supported with past data demonstrating the increasing obesity issues in Lebanon and previous data in urban and psychological studies that expound the way the brain processes the urban spaces that increase satisfaction and the urban areas that the city should be offering to its inhabitants for positive health outcomes. The results uncovered the cycle of physical health, mental health, and social contacts which altogether affect the soul of a city where the aim is first and foremost the right to a healthy lifestyle. CONTEMPORARY URBAN AFFAIRS (2019), 3(2), 16-27. Doi:10.25034/ijcua.2018.4697 www.ijcua.com Copyright © 2018 Contemporary Urban Affairs. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Hove (as cited inMudede, 2011), noted: The city is totally human. The steps in an apartment building are for human feet, the door knobs afford human hands, the bed is for a human back …, the window is there for you, the streets are paved for your modes of transportation. This urban world didn't fall on you; it sprang from you (para. 2). While cities’ inhabitants are accommodating to the urban conditions, overweight and obesity are affecting a large number of them physically and socially (Lake & Townshend, 2006). In fact, the more the country is economically developed, the more the people from all ages are suffering from increasing obesity (Hong, Trang, Dibley, Sibbritt, Binh, &Hanh, 2010) and health and behavior issues (Cutts, Darby, Boone, &Brewis, 2009). Although genetics may play a role in overweight and obesity, cases are exceeding the biological heritage condition (Booth, Pinkston, & Poston, 2005; Hong et al., 2010) and are causing cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, changes in behavior (Hong et al., 2010), and breast cancer (Mehio, Sibai, Hwalla, Adra, & Rahal, 2003). Therefore, other conditions should be observed and analyzed such as the “area of residence, resources, television, walkability, land use, sprawl, and level of deprivation” (Booth et al., 2005, p.2). In fact, these factors affect significantly the motivation of cities’ inhabitants to practice physical activities (Booth et al., 2005) such as walking, relaxing in calm urban areas, and practicing social and familial activities in urban public spaces. The study tackles the reasons why people living in the city tend to overeat, have a sedentary lifestyle, or suffer from overweight and obesity even though they are choosing a healthy diet and practicing physical activities. These reasons are to be related to urban factors that affect personal and social factors. To study in detail the physical environment effect on people’s health and notably obesity issues, in-depth interviews were conducted with 50 Beirut inhabitants (Beirutis): 10 children (between 7 and 11 years old), 10 adolescents (between 12 and 17 years old), 10 young adults (between 18 and 39 years old), 10 middle-aged adults (ages between 40 and 65), and 10 older adults (more than 66 years old). Even though achieving the best urban planning strategy will not eliminate all cases of built environment problems and personal and social disturbances, it will undoubtedly limit and decrease its frequency (Gunder& Hillier, 2007). The results of this study will help architects understand the urban “obesogenic factors” related to the built environment. This study will also connect the degree of the inhabitants' satisfaction in the city's urban planning regarding public spaces and activities' facilities with the obesity rate. Furthermore, it will give the opportunity for the city’s inhabitants to communicate their suggestions to architects and their perceptions of a healthy city where free activities in public spaces are available. Accordingly, architects can develop urban planning in a practical direction where the functional and the healthy meet. 2.Obesity and the City 2.1 The 21st Century Worldwide Concern Nowadays, the contemporary city’s symbol of power is the economic supremacy. Accordingly, people are “doing extra work simply to exist” (Sui, 2003, p.77). However, the city isalso the place that ensures the inhabitants’ well-being through providing all the facilities for physicaland mental health (Lake & Townshend, 2006). An imbalance between the hard work for economic profits and the relaxation is reflected through the many disturbances in people’s balance such as the case of obesity. In fact, according to the medical news today (MNT) team (2016), obesity is a serious case where the excess of body fat causing a weight that exceeds 20% of the weight that a person should have can harm health. Even though many campaigns are done to defend the right to be overweight and eliminate physical discriminations and prejudices, obesity is a long-lasting illness (Velásquez-Meléndez, Mendes, &ProençaPadez, 2013) that is increasingly spread among cities’ inhabitants and affecting people of all ages due to individual conditions, but also due to urban and social conditions imposing a “cliché” physical shape and lifestyle on all the city’s inhabitants. Consequently, children and adolescents are developing obesity that are difficult to treat, which threatens young and future generations’ physical and social health and even life expectancies (Lake & Townshend, 2006; Dietz, as cited in Cutts et al., 2009). On the other hand, “the food environment and built environment are closely related” (Lake & Townshend, 2006, p. 265). Cities are by that challenged in tackling all conditions that are affecting people’s overweight and obesity. In reality, the efforts on research and application are emphasized whether on people or spaces but are hardly ever combining both simultaneously (Corburn, 2015). For example, the large sidewalks for pedestrian activity reveal the care for the person’s health in the city and reduce the warning signs of isolation (Corburn, 2015). Yet, the developing highways promoting urban sprawl and distances among the population (Corburn, 2015) are “competing” with the human pedestrian factor instead of equally existing in the city.

Perspectives

Shaping the City that Decreases Overweight and Obesity through Healthy Built Environment * PhD candidate.MARIA A. EL HELOU1 1Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece E Mail: maelhelou@arch.auth.gr A B S T R A C T Cities are being built based on the concepts of the comfortable, easy, and fast for the inhabitants. However, what is being constructed is promoting physical inactivity, and people are finding that what was being considered as convenient for daily life is, in fact, harmful to their physical health. The life of a city relies on the activity of the inhabitants who are the breathing engine of the built environment. Hence, the balance between physical activity and mental activity (e.g., office work) should be maintained because the more people are physically healthy, the more they are productive and the more the city experiences economic growth which all leads to satisfaction and happiness among the city’s inhabitants. Therefore, a city that facilitates the reach to physical activity helps its inhabitants to overcome many physical health issues such as overweight and obesity, the causes of many physical complications that can affect mental health over time. This study points to the many components of a city that beats overweight issues and especially obesity. One of this healing city’s aspects is the presence of green spaces and the green mobility that typically promotes walking and cycling instead of driving cars. Moreover, this city could foster the healing of prolonged stress and overall mental health related to human inactivity. Its analysis is based on in-depth interviews and results of previous empirical research in urban planning, psychology, and neuroarchitecture regarding people's perception of the visual environment they live in.The case study is the city of Beirut: in-depth interviews were conducted with a representative sample of Beirutis (people whose families come from the Beirut city and who were born in this city and are still living in it). These interviews helped measure these participants’ satisfaction with the physical activities and social life that is accessible for all the inhabitants through inclusive urban planning (such as clean open spaces, parks, sidewalks, free or inexpensive public spaces, facilities for green transportation, etc.). The results of the interviews analysis were supported with past data demonstrating the increasing obesity issues in Lebanon and previous data in urban and psychological studies that expound the way the brain processes the urban spaces that increase satisfaction and the urban areas that the city should be offering to its inhabitants for positive health outcomes. The results uncovered the cycle of physical health, mental health, and social contacts which altogether affect the soul of a city where the aim is first and foremost the right to a healthy lifestyle. CONTEMPORARY URBAN AFFAIRS (2019), 3(2), 16-27. Doi:10.25034/ijcua.2018.4697 www.ijcua.com Copyright © 2018 Contemporary Urban Affairs. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Hove (as cited inMudede, 2011), noted: The city is totally human. The steps in an apartment building are for human feet, the door knobs afford human hands, the bed is for a human back …, the window is there for you, the streets are paved for your modes of transportation. This urban world didn't fall on you; it sprang from you (para. 2). While cities’ inhabitants are accommodating to the urban conditions, overweight and obesity are affecting a large number of them physically and socially (Lake & Townshend, 2006). In fact, the more the country is economically developed, the more the people from all ages are suffering from increasing obesity (Hong, Trang, Dibley, Sibbritt, Binh, &Hanh, 2010) and health and behavior issues (Cutts, Darby, Boone, &Brewis, 2009). Although genetics may play a role in overweight and obesity, cases are exceeding the biological heritage condition (Booth, Pinkston, & Poston, 2005; Hong et al., 2010) and are causing cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, changes in behavior (Hong et al., 2010), and breast cancer (Mehio, Sibai, Hwalla, Adra, & Rahal, 2003). Therefore, other conditions should be observed and analyzed such as the “area of residence, resources, television, walkability, land use, sprawl, and level of deprivation” (Booth et al., 2005, p.2). In fact, these factors affect significantly the motivation of cities’ inhabitants to practice physical activities (Booth et al., 2005) such as walking, relaxing in calm urban areas, and practicing social and familial activities in urban public spaces. The study tackles the reasons why people living in the city tend to overeat, have a sedentary lifestyle, or suffer from overweight and obesity even though they are choosing a healthy diet and practicing physical activities. These reasons are to be related to urban factors that affect personal and social factors. To study in detail the physical environment effect on people’s health and notably obesity issues, in-depth interviews were conducted with 50 Beirut inhabitants (Beirutis): 10 children (between 7 and 11 years old), 10 adolescents (between 12 and 17 years old), 10 young adults (between 18 and 39 years old), 10 middle-aged adults (ages between 40 and 65), and 10 older adults (more than 66 years old). Even though achieving the best urban planning strategy will not eliminate all cases of built environment problems and personal and social disturbances, it will undoubtedly limit and decrease its frequency (Gunder& Hillier, 2007). The results of this study will help architects understand the urban “obesogenic factors” related to the built environment. This study will also connect the degree of the inhabitants' satisfaction in the city's urban planning regarding public spaces and activities' facilities with the obesity rate. Furthermore, it will give the opportunity for the city’s inhabitants to communicate their suggestions to architects and their perceptions of a healthy city where free activities in public spaces are available. Accordingly, architects can develop urban planning in a practical direction where the functional and the healthy meet. 2.Obesity and the City 2.1 The 21st Century Worldwide Concern Nowadays, the contemporary city’s symbol of power is the economic supremacy. Accordingly, people are “doing extra work simply to exist” (Sui, 2003, p.77). However, the city isalso the place that ensures the inhabitants’ well-being through providing all the facilities for physicaland mental health (Lake & Townshend, 2006). An imbalance between the hard work for economic profits and the relaxation is reflected through the many disturbances in people’s balance such as the case of obesity. In fact, according to the medical news today (MNT) team (2016), obesity is a serious case where the excess of body fat causing a weight that exceeds 20% of the weight that a person should have can harm health. Even though many campaigns are done to defend the right to be overweight and eliminate physical discriminations and prejudices, obesity is a long-lasting illness (Velásquez-Meléndez, Mendes, &ProençaPadez, 2013) that is increasingly spread among cities’ inhabitants and affecting people of all ages due to individual conditions, but also due to urban and social conditions imposing a “cliché” physical shape and lifestyle on all the city’s inhabitants. Consequently, children and adolescents are developing obesity that are difficult to treat, which threatens young and future generations’ physical and social health and even life expectancies (Lake & Townshend, 2006; Dietz, as cited in Cutts et al., 2009). On the other hand, “the food environment and built environment are closely related” (Lake & Townshend, 2006, p. 265). Cities are by that challenged in tackling all conditions that are affecting people’s overweight and obesity. In reality, the efforts on research and application are emphasized whether on people or spaces but are hardly ever combining both simultaneously (Corburn, 2015). For example, the large sidewalks for pedestrian activity reveal the care for the person’s health in the city and reduce the warning signs of isolation (Corburn, 2015). Yet, the developing highways promoting urban sprawl and distances among the population (Corburn, 2015) are “competing” with the human pedestrian factor instead of equally existing in the city.

Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs
Girne American University

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This page is a summary of: Shaping the City that Decreases Overweight and Obesity through Healthy Built Environment, Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs, June 2018, Journal of Contemporary Urban Affairs (JCUA), DOI: 10.25034/ijcua.2018.4697.
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