Up to 78% of walkers would take a more challenging route featuring obstacles such as balancing beams, steppingstones and high steps, research has found. The findings suggest that providing ‘Active Landscape’ routes in urban areas could help tackle an “inactivity pandemic” and improve health outcomes.
Millions of people in the UK are failing to meet recommended targets for physical activity. Exercising “on the go” is key to changing this but while walking along a pavement is better than nothing it causes no significant increase in heart rate so only qualifies as mild exercise. Walking also fails to significantly improve balance or bone density, unless it includes jumping, balancing, and stepping down.
But would adults opt for such ‘fun’ routes if given the choice? A University of Cambridge-led study published today in the journal Landscape Research suggests that with the right design, most would.
Previous research on ‘healthy route choices’ has focused on people’s likelihood of walking instead of using transport. But this study examined how likely people are to pick a more challenging route over a conventional one and which design characteristics influenced their choices.
Lead author, Anna Boldina, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Architecture, said: “Even when the increase in level and extent of activity level is modest, when millions of people are using cityscapes every day, those differences can have a major positive impact on public health.”
“Our findings show that pedestrians can be nudged into a wider range of physical activities through minor changes to the urban landscape. We want to help policy makers and designers to make modifications that will improve physical health and wellbeing.”
Boldina began this research after moving from Coimbra in Portugal — where she found herself climbing hills and ancient walls — to London, which she found far less physically challenging.
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