Advertisement

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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.

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Funding

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.

References

  1. 1.
    McKinney ML. Urbanization, biodiversity, and conservation. Bioscience. 2002;52(10):883–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Maller C, Townsend M, Pryor A, et al. Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promot Int. 2006;21(1):45–54.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Keniger LE, Gaston KJ, Irvine KN, et al. What are the benefits of interacting with nature? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013;10(3):913–35.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Shanahan DF, Lin BB, Bush R, et al. Toward improved public health outcomes from urban nature. Am J Public Health Res. 2015;105(3):470–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Brownson RC, Baker EA, Housemann RA, et al. Environmental and policy determinants of physical activity in the United States. Am J Public Health Res. 2001;91(12):1995–2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Oyebode O, Pape UJ, Laverty AA, et al. Rural, urban and migrant differences in noncommunicable disease risk-factors in middle income countries: a cross-sectional study of WHO-SAGE data. Plos One. 2015;10(4):e0122747.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Popkin BM. Urbanization, lifestyle changes and the nutrition transition. World Dev. 1999;27(11):1905–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Powell KE, Thompson PD, Caspersen CJ, et al. Physical activity and the incidence of coronary heart-disease. Annu Rev Public Health. 1987;8:253–87.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Berlin JA, Colditz GA. A meta-analysis of physical activity in the prevention of coronary heart disease. Am J Epidemiol. 1990;132:612–28.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: a report of the surgeon general. Atlanta: Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; 1996.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    National Institutes of Health. Physical activity and cardiovascular health. JAMA. 1996;276:241–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rydin Y, Bleahu A, Davies M, et al. Shaping cities for health: complexity and the planning of urban environments in the 21st century. Lancet. 2012;379(9831):2079–108.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    United Nations. World Urbanization Prospects: the 2014 revision. New York: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division; 2014.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    UN-Habitat. State of the world’s cities, 2012/2013: prosperity of cities. New York; 2013.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Barker G. A framework for the future: green networks with multiple uses in and around towns and cities. English Nature research report number 256. Peterborough: English Nature; 1997.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Harrison C, Burgess J, Millward A, et al. Accessible natural green space in towns and cities: a review of appropriate size and distance criteria. English Nature research report number 153. Peterborough: English Nature; 1995.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Wray S, Hay J, Walker H, et al. Audit of the towns, cities and development workstream of the England Biodiversity Strategy. English Nature research report number 652. Peterborough: English Nature; 2005.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Richardson EA, Pearce J, Mitchell R, et al. Role of physical activity in the relationship between urban green space and health. Public Health. 2013;127(4):318–24.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Astell-Burt T, Feng XQ, Kolt GS. Mental health benefits of neighbourhood green space are stronger among physically active adults in middle-to-older age: Evidence from 260,061 Australians. Prev Med. 2013;57(5):601–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Mitchell R, Popham F. Effect of exposure to natural environment on health inequalities: an observational population study. Lancet. 2008;372(9650):1655–60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Donovan GH, Butry DT, Michael YL, et al. The relationship between trees and human health evidence from the spread of the emerald ash borer. Am J Prev Med. 2013;44(2):139–45.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Dallimer M, Irvine KN, Skinner AMJ, et al. Biodiversity and the feel-good factor: understanding associations between self-reported human well-being and species richness. BioScience. 2012;62(1):47–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Fuller RA, Irvine KN, Devine-Wright P, et al. Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. Biol Lett. 2007;3(4):390–4.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Mitchell R. Is physical activity in natural environments better for mental health than physical activity in other environments? Soc Sci Med. 2013;91:130–4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Cohen-Cline H, Turkheimer E, Duncan GE. Access to green space, physical activity and mental health: a twin study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2015;69(6):523–9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Han K. Influence of limitedly visible leafy indoor plants on the psychology, behaviour, and health of students at a junior high school in Taiwan. Environ Behav. 2009;41:658–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Berman MG, Jonides J, Kaplan S. The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychol Sci. 2008;19(12):1207–12.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Coon JT, Boddy K, Stein K, et al. Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Environ Sci Technol. 2011;45(5):1761–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Pretty J, Peacock J, Hine R, et al. Green exercise in the UK countryside: Effects on health and psychological well-being, and implications for policy and planning. J Environ Plan Manag. 2007;50(2):211–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Pikora T, Giles-Corti B, Bull F, et al. Developing a framework for assessment of the environmental determinants of walking and cycling. Soc Sci Med. 2003;56(8):1693–703.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Owen N, Humpel N, Leslie E, et al. Understanding environmental influences on walking—review and research agenda. Am J Prev Med. 2004;27(1):67–76.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Giles-Corti B, Broomhall MH, Knuiman M, et al. Increasing walking—how important is distance to, attractiveness, and size of public open space? Am J Prev Med. 2005;28(2):169–76.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Lee C, Ory MG, Yoon J, et al. Neighborhood walking among overweight and obese adults: age variations in barriers and motivators. J Community Health. 2013;38(1):12–22.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Timperio A, Giles-Corti B, Crawford D, et al. Features of public open spaces and physical activity among children: findings from the CLAN study. Prev Med. 2008;47(5):514–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Roemmich JN, Epstein LH, Raja S, et al. Association of access to parks and recreational facilities with the physical activity of young children. Prev Med. 2006;43(6):437–41.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Astell-Burt T, Feng X, Kolt GS. Greener neighborhoods, slimmer people? Evidence from 246,920 Australians. Int J Obes. 2014;38:156–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Puett R, Teas J, Espana-Romero V, et al. Physical activity: does environment make a difference for tension, stress, emotional outlook, and perceptions of health status? J Phys Act Health. 2014;11(8):1503–11.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Shanahan DF, Fuller RF, Bush R, et al. The health benefits of nature: how much do we need? BioScience. 2015;65(5):476–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Lin BB, Fuller RA, Bush R, et al. Opportunity or orientation?: who uses parks and why. Plos One. 2014;9(1):e87422.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Shanahan DF, Lin BB, Gaston K, et al. What is the role of trees and remnant vegetation in attracting people to urban parks? Landsc Ecol. 2015;30:153–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Hillsdon M, Thorogood M, Anstiss T, et al. Randomized controlled trials of physical-activity promotion in free-living populations—a review. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1995;49(5):448–53.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Mytton OT, Townsend N, Rutter H, et al. Green space and physical activity: an observational study using Health Survey for England data. Health Place. 2012;18(5):1034–41.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Sugiyama T, Giles-Corti B, Summers J, et al. Initiating and maintaining recreational walking: a longitudinal study on the influence of neighborhood green space. Prev Med. 2013;57(3):178–82.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Veitch J, Carver A, Abbott G, et al. How active are people in metropolitan parks? An observational study of park visitation in Australia. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Irvine KN, Warber SL, Devine-Wright P, et al. Understanding urban green space as a health resource: a qualitative comparison of visit motivation and derived effects among park users in Sheffield, UK. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013;10(1):417–42.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Chiesura A. The role of urban parks for the sustainable city. Landsc Urban Plan. 2004;69:129–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Irvine KN, Fuller RA, Devine-Wright P, et al. Ecological and psychological value of urban green space. Dimensions of the sustainable city. London: Springer; 2010. p. 215–37.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Calogiuri G, Chroni S. The impact of the natural environment on the promotion of active living: an integrative systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2014;14(1):1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Kaplan R, Kaplan S. The experience of nature: a psychological perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1989.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Balling JD, Falk JH. Development of visual preference for natural environments. Environ Behav. 1982;14(1):5–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Bjerke T, Østdahl T, Thrane C, et al. Vegetation density of urban parks and perceived appropriateness for recreation. Urban For Urban Green. 2006;5:35–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Parsons R. Conflict between ecological sustainability and environmental aesthetics: conundrum, canard or curiosity. Landsc Urban Plan. 1995;32:227–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Coombes E, Jones AP, Hillsdon M. The relationship of physical activity and overweight to objectively measured green space accessibility and use. Soc Sci Med. 2010;70(6):816–22.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Pyle RM. The extinction of experience. Horticulture. 1978;56:64–7.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Miller JR. Biodiversity conservation and the extinction of experience. Trends Ecol Evol. 2005;20(8):430–4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Bixler RD, Floyd MF. Nature is scary, disgusting, and uncomfortable. Environ Behav. 1997;29(4):443–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Ho CH, Sasidharan V, Elmendorf W, et al. Gender and ethnic variations in urban park preferences, visitation, and perceived benefits. J Leis Res. 2005;37(3):281–306.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Pleson E, Nieuwendyk LM, Lee KK, et al. Understanding older adults’ usage of community green spaces in Taipei, Taiwan. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(2):1444–64.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Zanon D, Doucouliagos C, Hall J, et al. Constraints to park visitation: a meta-analysis of North American studies. Leis Sci. 2013;35(5):475–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Jim CY, Shan XZ. Socioeconomic effect on perception of urban green spaces in Guangzhou, China. Cities. 2013;31:123–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Wende HEW, Zarger RK, Mihelcic JR. Accessibility and usability: green space preferences, perceptions, and barriers in a rapidly urbanizing city in Latin America. Landsc Urban Plan. 2012;107(3):272–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Cohen DA, Marsh T, Williamson S, et al. Parks and physical activity: why are some parks used more than others? Prev Med. 2010;50(Supplement 0):S9–12.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Ferré M, Guitart A, Ferret M. Children and playgrounds in Mediterranean cities. Child Geog. 2006;4:173–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    McCormack GR, Rock M, Toohey AM, et al. Characteristics of urban parks associated with park use and physical activity: a review of qualitative research. Health Place. 2010;16(4):712–26.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Moran M, Van Cauwenberg J, Hercky-Linnewiel R, et al. Understanding the relationships between the physical environment and physical activity in older adults: a systematic review of qualitative studies. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014;11(1):1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Veitch J, Bagley S, Ball K, et al. Where do children usually play? A qualitative study of parents’ perceptions of influences on children’s active free-play. Health Place. 2006;12(4):383–93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Cohen DA, Lapham S, Evenson KR, et al. Use of neighbourhood parks: does socio-economic status matter? A four-city study. Public Health. 2013;127(4):325–32.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Play England. The Wild Network. 2015 [accessed 10 June 2015]; Available from: http://www.playengland.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/the-wild-network.aspx.
  69. 69.
    Carpenter M. From ‘healthful exercise’ to ‘nature on prescription’: the politics of urban green spaces and walking for health. Landsc Urban Plan. 2013;118:120–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Lovasi GS, Quinn JW, Neckerman KM, et al. Children living in areas with more street trees have lower prevalence of asthma. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2008;62(7):647–9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Hanski I, von Hertzen L, Fyhrquist N, et al. Environmental biodiversity, human microbiota, and allergy are interrelated. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(21):8334–9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Maas J, Verheij RA, Groenewegen PP, et al. Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation? J Epidemiol Community Health. 2006;60(7):587–92.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Astell-Burt T, Feng X, Kolt GS. Is neighborhood green space associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes? Evidence from 267,072 Australians. Diabetes Care. 2014;37(1):197–201.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Maas J, Verheij RA, de Vries S, et al. Morbidity is related to a green living environment. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2009;63(12):967–73.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. 75.
    Richardson E, Pearce J, Mitchell R, et al. The association between green space and cause-specific mortality in urban New Zealand: an ecological analysis of green space utility. BMC Public Health. 2010;10:240.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    Hill AB. Environment and disease—association or causation. Proc R Soc Med. 1965;58(5):295–300.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  77. 77.
    Hartig T, Book A, Garvill J, et al. Environmental influences on psychological restoration. Scand J Psychol. 1996;37(4):378–93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. 78.
    Ulrich RS. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science. 1984;224:420–1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. 79.
    Van den Berg AE, Custers MHG. Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. J Health Psychol. 2011;16(1):3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. 80.
    Triguero-Mas M, Dadvand P, Cirach M, et al. Natural outdoor environments and mental and physical health: relationships and mechanisms. Environ Int. 2015;77:35–41.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. 81.
    Bolund P, Hunhammar S. Ecosystem services in urban areas. Ecol Econ. 1999;29(2):293–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 82.
    Hartig T, Mang M, Evans GW. Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environ Behav. 1991;23(1):3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. 83.
    Park BJ, Tsunetsugu Y, Ishii H, et al. Physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the atmosphere of the forest) in a mixed forest in Shinano Town, Japan. Scand J Forest Res. 2008;23(3):278–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. 84.
    Ulrich RS, Simons RF, Losito BD, et al. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. J Environ Psychol. 1991;11(3):201–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. 85.
    Pretty J, Peacock J, Sellens M, et al. The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Int J Environ Health Res. 2005;15(5):319–37.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. 86.
    Focht BC. Brief walks in outdoor and laboratory environments: effects on affective responses, enjoyment, and intentions to walk for exercise. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2009;80(3):611–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  87. 87.
    Ryan RM, Weinstein N, Bernstein J, et al. Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. J Environ Psychol. 2010;30(2):159–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. 88.
    Barton J, Pretty J. What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environ Sci Technol. 2010;44(10):3947–55.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  89. 89.
    Pasanen TP, Tyrvainen L, Korpela KM. The relationship between perceived health and physical activity indoors, outdoors in built environments, and outdoors in nature. Appl Psychol Health Well Being. 2014;6(3):324–46.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations