Green exercise

Tan, C.L.Y., Chang, C.-C., Nghiem, T.P.L., Zhang, Y., Oh, R.R.Y., Shanahan, D.F., Lin, B.B., Gaston, K.J., Fuller, R.A. & Carrasco, L.R. 2021. The right mix: residential urban green-blue space combinations are correlated with physical exercise in a tropical city-state. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 57, 126947. [Image from NASA]

Growing recognition of nature’s benefits to many aspects of human wellbeing has prompted the incorporation of both urban green and blue natural outdoor environments (NOEs) into cities. Amongst the many purposes of NOEs, promotion of physical exercise has been garnering interest, given the increasingly sedentary lifestyles of urban dwellers. However, studies rarely consider how different types of NOEs, let alone the combination of them, might affect the type and frequency of physical exercise conducted by urban residents. We use Singapore, a highly urbanised tropical nation with a considerable number of NOEs, as a case-study to address these gaps. We used a market research survey (n = 1519), geographic information systems, and generalised linear regression models to investigate the relationship between residential NOE cover, exercise-influencing sociodemographic factors, and outdoor exercise choice (i.e., if respondents exercised or not) and frequency of four types of physical exercises: walking, individual-based, team-sports, and overall exercise. For exercise choice, more people walked in areas with higher forest and scrub cover, and less in areas with just scrub. Less conducted individual-based exercise in areas with high unmanaged vegetation cover, and more conducted team-sports in areas with higher open-canopy managed vegetation cover. Amongst those who engaged in these exercises, managed vegetation cover is positively correlated with walking (open- and closed-canopy combined) and team-sports (open-canopy) frequency. Individual-based exercise frequency rose in areas with a mix of high open-canopy managed vegetation and blue space cover within 250 m from one’s home, and a mix of high managed treescape and forest cover 500 m from one’s home. Findings suggest that a specific mix of NOEs can promote the participation of different types of physical exercise. Integrating the right NOE types and combinations into urban residential spaces may thus help to mitigate sedentary lifestyles, boosting public health outcomes in city populations.