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Getting adults to exercise may hinge on providing paths and pretty scenery

Providing aesthetically pleasing and convenient places for people to walk, run and bicycle may be the key to getting adults off the couch and exercising regularly, according to a recent study.

Public health strategies to promote physical activity are now strongly emphasizing the role of environmental influences to create opportunities and remove barriers to people being more active in their daily lives, says senior researcher and co-author Neville Owen, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland in Australia.

The research was based on a survey of 19 previous studies on the subject and published in the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Environmental attributes are among the least understood of the known influences on physical activity. Their conceptualization and measurement comprise a relatively new area of research, the researchers say.

Among the factors that matter most in peoples decision to engage in outdoor activity, according to the study, were accessibility of facilities, the opportunity to exercise and having pleasant surroundings. Less important were weather and safety. Convenience of bikeways, footpaths, health clubs and swimming pools was associated with physical activity, and there was also a strong link between the presence of home equipment and vigorous exercise.

Although safety did not seem to matter according to some studies, the authors hypothesize that people who are physically active and are worried about their safety may exercise in places other than their own neighborhood.

U.S. data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the other hand, found that people who perceived their neighborhood as unsafe were more likely to be inactive. When urban women were compared with their rural counterparts, they were more likely to report lack of street lights, high crime rates and lack of a safe place to exercise as barriers to physical activity.

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Contact: Cathy Swart
c.swart@sph.uq.edu.au
617-3365-5528
Center for the Advancement of Health
22-Mar-2002


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