In 2012, I wrote an article for In Magazine called “The Suburbs Make You Fat.” The title was an attention-grabber, but the statistics back it up. When you live in the suburbs, you are much more likely to engage in what urbanists and health researchers call “utilitarian walking.” This is the walking that we do every day just to get stuff done – walking to the bus/subway stop, walking to pick up a litre of milk from the corner store, walking to the neighbourhood brunch hangout on a Sunday morning.
When you live in the city, this kind of walking comes without a second thought. It’s not exercise, it’s not planned, and it doesn’t feel like a labour. It’s simply the manoeuvres of living life in the city, but this simple movement adds up and has untold health and psychological benefits.
I understand the “pros” of living in the suburbs, don’t get me wrong. You get a bigger, newer home, with a bigger yard to call your own, at a price that makes sense for your short and long-term financial goals. I also understand how the “utilitarian walking” fades away when you have to spend two hours commuting every single day, and getting to the grocery store might be 5 minutes as the crow flies but takes an hour of navigating winding roads to reach by foot.
You can try to convince me of the “pros” of suburban living, but you couldn’t pay me to give up the health, culture, and lifestyle benefits of living in the centre of Toronto, one of the greatest cities in the world. As Torontonians, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that we have world-class restaurants, museums, shopping, event venues (and even a #WORLD-class salon if I do say so myself) within a five kilometre radius of downtown.
Do you realize how lucky we are? From the shores of Lake Ontario to Bloor Street West and beyond, we have every cultural, culinary, and cosmopolitan delight at our disposal, and we turn our backs to it in favour of that fourth bedroom we don’t need. We have sprawling green space in the city, and we trade it in for a backyard we never touch. We have a diverse community with so much to offer, and we give it up for suburbs where a curt nod is treated like an invasion of privacy.
As you make the choice between staying in the city or making a dash for the suburbs, you have a lot of decisions to weigh. For the benefits of your physical, mental, and emotional health, I can’t think of a better place to call home than the city of Toronto proper.