This research looks at relationships between people’s local and nearby natural environments and physical activity, and how they vary by environment, type of activity and household income.
This study explored associations between self-reported and objective measures of physical activity using a sample of 18,391 adults from the Health Survey for England (HSE) 2008 – 2012, in relation to neighbourhood nature. We found that people who live within 5 km of the coast are more likely to self-report meeting UK 2010 physical activity guidelines through walking, non-recreational activity, and all types combined, compared to those living more than 20 km away.
Our results support the idea that coastal environments are particularly good at encouraging activities like walking. This is more prominent for low-income households, indicating that the coast possibly contributes to reducing health inequalities.
Self-reported sports and exercise were not related to any of our environmental measures, perhaps because this measure included activities often carried out indoors for example at the gym.
A subsample of respondents in 2008 wore an accelerometer for a week which allowed us to see if an objective measure of physical activity was also related to these neighbourhood nature variables. However, this sample was a much smaller size (n = 1,774) and relationships were not replicated.
Our self-report findings for the differing types of physical activity linked to neighbourhood green and blue space broadly replicated previous research, yet the reasons for the observed differences between the different types of physical activity and environments remain unclear so further study is needed.
The published paper’s full title is “Urban nature and physical activity: Investigating associations using self-reported and accelerometer data and the role of household income.”