N4L 132: "Fit Cities" by Dr. Karen K. Lee


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By Janet Perry, Janet Perry: blogger, and Nonfiction book lover. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Med student turned public health detective, Dr. Karen K. Lee chronicles her decades-long professional journey in her recent book, Fit Cities: My Quest to Improve the World's Health and Wellness—Including Yours. As a built environment advisor, she helps gather data about how we eat, build, and move. Typical assessments include walkability, availability of healthy food sources, lunch menus, physical education curricula, work-site amenities, and building design. From her work, she has developed "Active Design" principles to build environments that promote a healthy lifestyle.


  • Offer multiple transportation options that include opportunities to walk.
  • Post signs to encourage more stair-climbing.
  • Dance with your children.
  • Limit sugary drinks, including juices.
  • Eliminate food deserts; make healthy food accessible and affordable.
  • Pedestrianize congested spaces.
  • Plan open-street events (e.g., “Summer Streets” in NYC).
  • Help citizen voices for “Fit Cities” be heard.
  • Offer exercise equipment for parents as they watch their children play sports.
  • Incentivize street vendors to offer healthy food options.
  • Organize “Fit City” conferences to build cross-discipline relationships.


  • “If our cities and towns become fit and healthy, we will find it easier to become fit and healthy too.”
  • “Physical activity experts suggest that, if the average adult was to climb [stairs] just an extra two minutes per day, we could offset the average weight gains that most of us are experiencing in an average year.”
  • “We must recognize that we are not alone in the battle to stay fit and healthy, and that solving the problem will require a concerted, cooperative effort across many disciplines.”
  • “Disasters…illustrate for us just how important it is that our homes, schools, workplaces, and grocery stores be at walkable distances from each other.”
  • “In a disaster, people walk. They walk because they have to. Cars are often ordered off the roads and public transportation often has to shut down, even if temporarily.”

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