Monday, January 14, 2013

An Available Open Door Doesn't Guarantee Its Use

On January 9, economist Jed Kolko released a study to real estate site that takes 5 different measures to rank the best and worst cities to live in if you want to lose weight.  Of course, this is the best time to mention such a study as people made resolutions recently to make a life change this year.  Despite living in nearby Henderson, Las Vegas was named at the worst place to live in if you want to drop that midsection tire.

What I find interesting about such studies is that there are and will always be other studies.  One specifically released last year in Men's Fitness named Las Vegas at #6 in the top 25 "fattest cities."  On that same list, Philadelphia is #14 on the heavy cities list but #8 on the "best cities to lose weight" list.  Houston and Memphis come in come in #1 and #4 (respectively) on this list and #7 and #6 on the worst cities to lose that weight.

Sure, I think it's easy to pick on a city that is known for buffets but not everyone here goes to them.  Personally, I may go to one once or twice a year (excluding Sweet Tomatoes.)  I guess it is a case of perception and reality.  Las Vegas is full of hotels with buffets that are supported by people coming to visit from other cities, states and countries.  Having something doesn't mean it is highly attended by locals.  Healthy food shopping is available all over from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, Fresh and Easy (for now) as well as many sections at WinCo, Walmart, Smith's, Albertson's and Von's.  The Urban Spoon cites 48 organic restaurants and 23 vegan friendly organic restaurants in the area.

The Kolko study misses a big issue here.  Having healthy food available doesn't mean it will be purchased or eaten.  3 of the 5 measures Kolko studies view the proximity of a gym to homes, outdoor sports opportunities and percentage of weight loss or diet centers per population density.  Proximity, opportunity and locality do not mean attendance.  If you survey those that walk or bike to work, why not survey them on if they walk or bike for exercise or recreation?  Does walking to work include walking a mile or so to public transportation?  Does the study account for weather conditions conducive to outdoor exercise or count the number of tennis or basketball courts... and why limit it to outdoor in an age of P90X, Insanity, Turbofire and many other home indoor options?  Might as well ask if they have a functioning DVD player if you are going to measure opportunities to lose weight.

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