Living near a canal can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, research found.

Scientists said people from deprived areas can cut their risk of developing chronic life-shortening diseases by up to 15 per cent if they live within 700m of a canal.

Those living near the Forth and Clyde Canal had a 15 per cent lower risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, a stroke or hypertension.

It also lowered their risk of diabetes by 12 per cent and obesity by 10 per cent.

Experts at the Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) examined medical records of 137,032 people living within 1400m of the canal.

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Glasgow Times: Pictured: Doctor Zoe TiegesPictured: Doctor Zoe Tieges
Dr Zoë Tieges, lead author in the study, said: “We found that, in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation, living within 700m from the Clyde and Forth Canal was linked to a lower risk of chronic health conditions.

“On the whole, these findings suggest that residential exposure to blue infrastructure was associated with a lower risk for non-communicable diseases in the most deprived areas.

“We concluded that exposure to canals could be used to mitigate urban health inequalities.

"The study demonstrates that the regeneration of the Forth and Clyde Canal is having a real positive effect on people’s health and could help cut the high level of chronic disease often linked with areas of socioeconomic deprivation that is very costly to the NHS.

“It shows the canal is really improving people’s lives.

“Before the regeneration, the canal was a dump and depressing but now people are enjoying interacting with nature, getting more exercise and socialising more in the community with events like the Canal Festival and places like the Whisky Bond.

“The whole area has completely changed and we have found the health-promoting effect of this regeneration in the reduction in the number of people getting chronic health conditions, particularly in these deprived areas around the canal.”

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Catherine Topley, CEO of Scottish Canals, said: “This study has brought the canal network of Scotland to the attention of the rest of the world, demonstrating that regenerating blue infrastructure improves public health and prevent chronic diseases.

“Our canal network in Scotland consists of 140 miles of linear waterways that flow through some of the country's most challenged areas.

“Given that 1.5 million people in Scotland live near inland waterways, the research's potential to reduce inequalities and improve the lives of millions of people, not only in Scotland but throughout the world is evident.

“All we need to do now is utilise it to influence investment decisions.”