Forests, Trees and Human Health

pp 205-243


Contributions of Natural Environments to Physical Activity

Theory and Evidence Base
  • Sjerp de VriesAffiliated withAlterra Email author 
  • , Thomas ClaßenAffiliated withUniversity of Bielefeld
  • , Stella-Maria Eigenheer-HugAffiliated withSwiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)
  • , Kalevi KorpelaAffiliated withUniversity of Tampere
  • , Jolanda MaasAffiliated withEMGO Institute of VU University Medical Center
  • , Richard MitchellAffiliated withUniversity of Glasgow
  • , Peter SchantzAffiliated withMid Sweden University and GIH

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The idea that nearby nature stimulates people to be more physically active is quite popular. In this chapter the literature regarding the link between physical activity and the residential environment is scrutinized. More specifically, after introducing the main concepts and a theoretical framework the evidence regarding three categories of activity is examined: physical activity in general, walking and cycling (mainly by adults), and outdoor play by children. Overall activity is deemed important because of its link to total energy expenditure, and thereby health. However, the other two categories are more likely to be linked to green aspects of the environment. Also attention is paid to the possibility that activity undertaken in a natural environment is especially beneficial for one’s health. At the end of the chapter conclusions are summarized, directions for future research are proposed and policy recommendations are given, as far as possible given the current state of affairs.