Sports Medicine

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 989–995 | Cite as

The Benefits of Natural Environments for Physical Activity

  • Danielle F. ShanahanEmail author
  • Lara Franco
  • Brenda B. Lin
  • Kevin J. Gaston
  • Richard A. Fuller
Leading Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Designing environments to enhance physical and psychological benefits of physical activity: A multi-disciplinary perspective


Urbanisation has a profound effect on both people and the environment, as levels of physical activity decline and many natural ecosystems become lost or degraded. Here we draw on emerging research to examine the role of green spaces in providing a venue for outdoor physical activity, and in enhancing the benefit of a given amount of physical activity for urban residents. We identify critical knowledge gaps, including (1) whether (and for whom) levels of physical activity increase as new green spaces are introduced or old spaces reinvigorated; (2) which characteristics of nature promote physical activity; (3) the extent to which barriers to outdoor physical activity are environmental or social; and (4) whether the benefits of physical activity and experiences of nature accrue separately or synergistically. A clear understanding of these issues will help guide effective investment in green space provision, ecological enhancement and green exercise promotion.


Physical Activity Green Space Urban Green Space Physical Activity Promotion Recreational Walking 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


Danielle Shanahan is supported through Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant DP120102857 and the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED, Australia); Richard Fuller holds an ARC Future Fellowship; Brenda Lin is supported through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Land and Water Flagship; and Kevin Gaston is supported by Natural Environment Research Council Grant NE/J015237/1.

Conflict of interest

Danielle Shanahan, Lara Franco, Brenda Lin, Kevin Gaston and Richard Fuller declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Danielle F. Shanahan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lara Franco
    • 1
  • Brenda B. Lin
    • 2
  • Kevin J. Gaston
    • 3
  • Richard A. Fuller
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Land and Water FlagshipAspendaleAustralia
  3. 3.Environment and Sustainability InstituteUniversity of ExeterCornwallUK

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