Physical Health

Academic papers and other referenceable material concerning the link between public open space and improved health.

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 Title Author  Year  Synopsis/Executive Summary Location 
Relative Influences of Individual, Social Environmental, and Physical Environmental Correlates of Walking - American Journal of Public Health Billie Giles-Corti and Robert J. Donovan 2003

Objectives. This study sought to examine individual, social environmental, and physical environmental correlates of walking.

Methods. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among healthy workers and homemakers residing in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia.

Results. Most respondents walked for transport or recreation, but only 17.2% did a sufficient amount of walking to accrue health benefits. After adjustment, the relative influences of individual, social environmental, and physical environmental factors were found to be almost equally important.

Conclusions. Although walking is popular, few people do enough walking to benefit their health. Those who walk as well as engage in other physical activities appear more likely to achieve recommended levels of activity. Promoting walking may require a comprehensive strategy. (Am J Public Health. 2003;93:1583–1589)

Perth - Western Australia 
Increasing Walking How Important Is Distance To, Attractiveness, and Size of Public Open Space? - American Journal of Preventative Medicine Billie Giles-Corti, PhD, Melissa H. Broomhall, MPH, Matthew Knuiman, PhD, Catherine Collins, MBBS, Kate Douglas, MBBS, Kevin Ng, MBBS, Andrea Lange, BA (Hon), Robert J. Donovan, PhD 2005

Background: Well-designed public open space (POS) that encourages physical activity is a community asset that could potentially contribute to the health of local residents.

Methods: In 1995–1996, two studies were conducted—an environmental audit of POS over 2 acres (n 516) within a 408-km2 area of metropolitan Perth, Western Australia; and personal interviews with 1803 adults (aged 18 to 59 years) (52.9% response rate). The association between access to POS and physical activity was examined using three accessibility models that progressively adjusted for distance to POS, and its attractiveness and size. In 2002, an observational study examined the influence of attractiveness on the use of POS by observing users of three pairs of high- and low-quality (based on attractiveness) POS matched for size and location.

Results: Overall, 28.8% of respondents reported using POS for physical activity. The likelihood of using POS increased with increasing levels of access, but the effect was greater in the model that adjusted for distance, attractiveness, and size. After adjustment, those with very good access to large, attractive POS were 50% more likely to achieve high levels of walking (odds ratio, 1.50; 95% confidence level, 1.06–2.13). The observational study showed that after matching POS for size and location, 70% of POS users observed visited attractive POS.

Conclusions: Access to attractive, large POS is associated with higher levels of walking. To increase walking, thoughtful design (and redesign) of POS is required that creates large, attractive POS with facilities that encourage active use by multiple users (e.g., walkers, sports participants, picnickers). (Am J Prev Med 2005;28(2S2):169–176) © 2005 American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Perth - Western Australia
Does the Built Environment Influence Physical Activity? Examining the Evidence Transportation Research Board -Institute of Medicine of The National Academies  2005

This study examines the role of the built environment in physical activity levels. In particular, this report

• Reviews the broad trends affecting the relationships among physical activity, health, transportation, and land use;

• Summarizes what is known about these relationships and what they suggest for future policy decisions at all levels of government; and

• Identifies priorities for future research.

Washington DC - United States of America
The influence of urban design on neighbourhood walking following residential relocation: Longitudinal results from the RESIDE study - Social Science and Medicine

Billie Giles-Corti, Fiona Bull, Matthew Knuiman, Gavin McCormack, Kimberly Van Niel, Anna Timperio, Hayley Christian, Sarah Foster,  Mark Divitini, Nick Middleton, Bryan Boruff.

University of Melbourne, Australia, The University of Western Australia, Australia, University of Calgary, Canada, Deakin University, Australia 


The design of urban environments has the potential to enhance the health and well-being of residents by impacting social determinants of health including access to public transport, green space and local amenities. Commencing in 2003, RESIDE is a longitudinal natural experiment examining the impact of urban planning on active living in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia.

This study provides longitudinal evidence that both transport and recreational-walking behaviours respond to changes in the availability and diversity of local transport- and recreational destinations, and demonstrates the potential of local infrastructure to support health-enhancing behaviours. 

Perth - Western Australia
City health check How design can save lives and money -  Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Rebecca Roberts-Hughes 2013

Do our cities support healthy, active choices on a daily basis? Does the architecture and urban design of our cities impact on public health? In this health check we compare three serious health problems in the nine most populated cities in England. These health problems relate to our urban environment and how people behave in cities, specifically the amount of exercise they take.

We ask residents in each major English city what would encourage them to walk more. We then make practical recommendations to local authorities and developers about actions they can take to create healthy places. Case studies illustrate how urban and architectural design can create healthy, walkable environments in urban areas.

Our City health check uncovers two clear lessons: First, there is a clear link between land use and public health in cities. Second, people say it is the quality, not quantity, of streets and parks that will encourage them to walk more.

United Kingdom
Creating Active Communities: How Can Open and Public Spaces in Urban and Suburban Environments Support Active Living? A Literature Review - University of South Australia Associate Professor Jon Kellett and Dr Matthew W. Rofe 2009 Open space is an important component of urban areas and may be a key factor in promoting active living. This report seeks to identify the evidence base in respect of evaluating the importance of open and public space in supporting active living through a review of the academic and policy evidence. South Australia
The impact of urban form on public health Billie Giles-Corti – University of Western Australia 2006 Many major chronic diseases of the 21st century are associated with physical inactivity in Australia, physical inactivity is second only to tobacco as the leading cause of death and disability. Redressing trends in declining levels of physical activity and increasing levels of overweight and obesity in both adults and children are national priorities in Australia.  
Healthy Parks, Healthy People Deakin University, Melbourne 2008 Project is a result of a join initiative between Parks Victoria and the NiCHE (Nature in Community, Health and Environment) Research Group of Deakin University. Focused on understanding the human relationship with nature and how humans might benefit from nature in terms of health and wellbeing.  
Green space, urbanity and health: how strong is the relation? Journal Epidemial Community Health 2006 Investigate the strength of the relation between the amount of green space in people’s living environment and their perceived general health. This relation is analysed for different age and socioeconomic groups.  
The Importance of irrigated urban green space Goyder Institute for Water Research 2010 There is a growing body of evidence that links human health and the natural environment. The importance of contact with nature is highlighted in this literature as providing a wide range of physical and mental health benefits.  
What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature? Luce E. Keniger, Kevin J. Gaston, Katherine N. Irvine and Richard A. Fuller – International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2013 There is mountain empirical evidence that interacting with nature delivers measurable benefits to people. Reviews of this topic have generally focused on a specific type of benefit, been limited to a single discipline, or covered the benefits delivered from a particular type of interaction.  
Health benefits of urban vegetation and green space Journalist’s Resource 2015 In recent years, growth has returned to U.S city centers and many municipalities have shown a renewed interest in incorporating green space and vegetation into the urban environment.  
The Role of Park proximity and Social Support in Shaping Park Visitation, Physical Activity and Perceived Health Among Older Adults Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2007 Health scholars purport that park proximity and social support promotes physical activity and health. However, a few studies examine the combined contributions of these constructs in shaping physical activity and health. This study examines the contributions of environmental and social characteristics in shaping park use, physical activity and health.  
Costs of Illness attributable to Physical Inactivity in Australia Australian Sports Commission   2000 

Physical inactivity is an important issue for health care providers, policy makers and to communities. To date, there have been few attempts to quantify the economic burden of physical inactivity on morbidity and mortality.

Report examines the cost of illness based on physical inactivity and describes strategies to increase activity and the resources it requires including the cost. 
Sedentary Behaviour and Obesity: Review of the Current Scientific Evidence Department of Health 2010

The United Kingdom has issues of growing sedentary behaviour that includes sitting/lying being a dominant mode of posture and therefore reduced energy expenditure.

Due to TV viewing and computer game playing, reports suggest these lead to poor active recreation and higher obesity levels 
United Kingdom
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Promote Physical Activity: A Modelling Study  Linda J. Cobiac & Jan J. Barendregt  2009 

Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for chronic disease, but a growing number of people are not achieving the recommended levels of physical activity necessary for good health.

Despite Australia’s image as a sporting nation, with success at the elite level, the majority of Australians do not get enough physical activity.
Beyond Proximity: The Importance of Green Space Useability
to Self-Reported Health 
May Carter and Pierre Horwitz 2014  Access to parks and green spaces within residential neighbourhoods has been shown to be an important pathway to generating better physical and mental health for individuals and communities. Early research in this area often failed to identify specific attributes that contributed to reported health outcomes, with more recent research focused on exploring relationships between health outcomes and aspects of access and design. A mixed methods research project conducted in Perth, Western Australia examined the role that neighbourhood green space played in influencing residents’ self-reported health status, and this paper identifies significant relationships found between perceptions of green space quality and self-reported health. It focuses on the factors that were found to be most positively associated with better health outcomes: proximity, retention, useability and visitation of neighbourhood green space.  Australia