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Lockdowns reveal inequities in opportunities for walking activities

By Stephanie M. McPherson | Sociotechnical Systems Research Center

Lockdowns saved lives during the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. But as much as they have slowed the spread of Covid-19, there have been some unintended consequences.

New MIT research shows that lockdowns in 10 metropolitan areas throughout the United States led to a marked reduction in walking. These decreases were mostly seen among residents living in lower-income areas of the city, effectively reducing access to physical activity for minorities and people suffering from illnesses such as obesity and diabetes.

“Walking is the cheapest, most accessible physical exercise that you can do,” says Esteban Moro, visiting research scientist in the MIT Connection Science Group and senior author on the Nature Communications paper published on June 16. “Places in which people have lower incomes, less park access, and more obesity prevalence were more affected by this walking reduction — which you can think of as another pandemic, the lack of access to affordable exercise.”

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