Effects of urban green space (UGS) quality on physical activity (PA) and health, controlling for environmental factors

Weijian Zhang, Yan Li, Peilin Guo, Xitie Guo

Article ID: 3162
Vol 8, Issue 4, 2024

VIEWS - 618 (Abstract) 416 (PDF)


Recently, there has been a burgeoning fascination with the influence of urban green spaces (UGS) on physical activity (PA) and health. This interest has been accompanied by a mounting body of evidence that establishes a connection between UGS and residents’ PA levels. Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the significance of UGS and have generally agreed on their connection with health. However, there is still considerable variation in viewpoints regarding the intermediate factors contributing to this association. The primary objective of this study was to investigate the potential correlation between different qualitative factors of UGS and PA. The study involved the collection of data from four parks located in Edinburgh. Four trained observers utilised the Environmental Assessment of Public Recreational Spaces (EARPS Mini) tool to code various environmental characteristics. Additionally, the Method for Observing Physical Activity and Wellbeing (MOHAWk) observation tool was employed to code instances of on-site incivility and the characteristics and behaviours of residents engaging in UGS activities. The results of this study show that the facilities and environment, area and socioeconomic status (SES) of UGS positively affect the type of PA and the level of PA, as well as influence residents’ attentiveness to the environment and their interactions with each other. Demographics such as gender and age group are also significantly related to the level and type of PA. Significant differences in the level and type of PA, and race only differed significantly in the choice of activity type. These results suggest that the quality of the UGS environment affects the level, type, and status of PA among residents and that resident characteristics also have an impact. Future research suggests increasing data collection related to PA frequency and PA duration and considering longitudinal observations over time for refinement.


urban green spaces (UGS); physical activity (PA); environmental factors; socioeconomic status (SES); demographics

Full Text:



Akpinar, A., Cankurt, M. (2016). How are characteristics of urban green space related to levels of physical activity: Examining the links. Indoor and Built Environment, 26(8), 1091–1101. https://doi.org/10.1177/1420326x16663289

Axinn, W. G., & Pearce, L. D. (2006). Mixed method data collection strategies. Cambridge University Press.

Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 44(10), 3947–3955. https://doi.org/10.1021/es903183r

Bauman, A., & Craig, C. L. (2005). The place of physical activity in the WHO Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2(1): 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-2-10

Benjamin, M. T., Winer, A. M. (1998). Estimating the ozone-forming potential of urban trees and shrubs. Atmospheric Environment, 32(1), 53–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1352-2310(97)00176-3

Benton, J. S., Anderson, J., Pulis, M., et al. (2020). Method for observing physical activity and Wellbeing (Mohawk): Validation of an observation tool to assess physical activity and other wellbeing behaviours in urban spaces. Cities & Health, 6(4), 818–832. https://doi.org/10.1080/23748834.2020.1775383

Bergdahl, N., Nouri, J., Karunaratne, T., et al. (2020). Learning Analytics for Blended Learning: A Systematic Review of Theory, Methodology, and Ethical Considerations. International Journal of Learning Analytics and Artificial Intelligence for Education (IJAI), 2(2), 46. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijai.v2i2.17887.

Beta.edinburgh.gov.uk. (n.d.). The value of council Parks. The City of Edinburgh Council.

Bryman, A. (2006). Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: how is it done? Qualitative Research, 6(1), 97–113. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794106058877

Campbell-Lendrum, D., & Corvalán, C. (2007). Climate Change and Developing-Country Cities: Implications For Environmental Health and Equity. Journal of Urban Health, 84(S1), 109–117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-007-9170-x

Cohen, D. A., McKenzie, T. L., Sehgal, A., Williamson, S., Golinelli, D., & Lurie, N. (2007). Contribution of Public Parks to Physical Activity. American Journal of Public Health, 97(3), 509–514. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2005.072447

Cohen-Cline, H., Turkheimer, E., & Duncan, G. E. (2015). Access to green space, physical activity and mental health: a twin study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 69(6), 523–529. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech-2014-204667

Coombes, E., Jones, A. P., & Hillsdon, M. (2010). The relationship of physical activity and overweight to objectively measured green space accessibility and use. Social Science & Medicine, 70(6), 816–822. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.11.020

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2005). Mixed methods research: Developments, debates, and dilemma. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. pp. 315–326.

D’Alessandro, D., Buffoli, M., Capasso, L., et al. (2015). Green areas and public health: improving wellbeing and physical activity in the urban context. Epidemiologia e prevenzione, 39(5), 8–13.

Dai, J., Chen, H., Li, J., et al. (2017). Factors to influence the adolescents’ Sport & Health Behaviors from the perspective of social ecology. Shanghai Univ Sport. 41(3), 35–41.

Dawson, K. S., Bryant, R. A., Harper, M., Kuowei Tay, A., Rahman, A., Schafer, A., & van Ommeren, M. (2015). Problem Management Plus (PM+): a WHO transdiagnostic psychological intervention for common mental health problems. World Psychiatry, 14(3), 354–357. Portico. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20255

Dishman, R. K., Washburn, R. A., & Schoeller, D. A. (2001). Measurement of Physical Activity. Quest, 53(3), 295–309. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2001.10491746

Duncan, M., & Mummery, K. (2005). Psychosocial and environmental factors associated with physical activity among city dwellers in regional Queensland. Preventive Medicine, 40(4), 363–372. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2004.06.017

Elmendorf, W., Willits, F., Sasidharan, V., & Godbey, G. (2005). Urban Park And Forest Participation And Landscape Preference: A Comparison Between Blacks And Whites In Philadelphia And Atlanta, U.S. Arboriculture & Urban Forestry, 31(6), 318–326. https://doi.org/10.48044/jauf.2005.041

Evenson, K. R., Jones, S. A., Holliday, K. M., Cohen, D. A., & McKenzie, T. L. (2016). Park characteristics, use, and physical activity: A review of studies using SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities). Preventive Medicine, 86, 153–166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.02.029

Farkas, J. Z., Hoyk, E., de Morais, M. B., & Csomós, G. (2023). A systematic review of urban green space research over the last 30 years: A bibliometric analysis. Heliyon, 9(2), e13406. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e13406

Gascon, M., Triguero-Mas, M., Martínez, D., Dadvand, P., Forns, J., Plasència, A., & Nieuwenhuijsen, M. (2015). Mental Health Benefits of Long-Term Exposure to Residential Green and Blue Spaces: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(4), 4354–4379. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120404354.

Geremia, C. M., Cain, K. L., Conway, T. L., et al. (2019). Validating and shortening the environmental assessment of public recreation spaces observational measure. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 16(1), 68–75.

Gobster, P. H. (2005). Recreation and leisure research from an active living perspective: Taking a second look at Urban Trail Use Data. Leisure Sciences, 27(5), 367–383. https://doi.org/10.1080/01490400500225674

Goličnik, B., & Thompson, C. W. (2010). Emerging relationships between design and use of urban park spaces. Landscape and urban planning, 94(1), 38–53.

Hallal, P. C., Andersen, L. B., Bull, F. C., et al. (2012). Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. The lancet, 380(9838), 247–257.

Heale, R., & Twycross, A. (2015). Validity and reliability in quantitative studies. Evidence-based nursing, 18(3), 66-67.

Hillsdon, M., Panter, J., Foster, C., & Jones, A. (2006). The relationship between access and quality of urban green space with population physical activity. Public health, 120(12), 1127–1132.

Huang, H., & Zhang, J. K. (2016). A systematic review of related research on Adolescents’ physical activity in Western countries based on the perspective of social-ecology. China Sports Sci, 36, 62–70.

Kaczynski, A. T., Besenyi, G. M., Stanis, S. A., et al. (2014). Are park proximity and park features related to park use and park-based physical activity among adults? variations by multiple socio-demographic characteristics. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11(1).

Kaczynski, A. T., Potwarka, L. R., & Saelens, B. E. (2008). Association of park size, distance, and features with physical activity in neighborhood parks. American journal of public health, 98(8), 1451–1456.

Kneeshaw-Price, S. H., Saelens, B. E., Sallis, J. F., et al. (2015). Neighborhood crime-related safety and its relation to children’s physical activity. Journal of Urban Health, 92, 472–489.

Kondo, M. C., Fluehr, J. M., McKeon, T., & Branas, C. C. (2018). Urban green space and its impact on human health. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(3), 445.

Kong, F., Yin, H., & Nakagoshi, N. (2007). Using GIS and landscape metrics in the hedonic price modeling of the amenity value of urban green space: A case study in Jinan City, China. Landscape and urban planning, 79(3-4), 240–252.

Kowarik, I. (2013). Cities and wilderness. International Journal of Wilderness, 19(3).

Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Environment and crime in the inner city: Does vegetation reduce crime?. Environment and behavior, 33(3), 343–367.

Kuo, F. E., Sullivan, W. C., Coley, R. L., & Brunson, L. (1998). Fertile ground for community: Inner‐city neighborhood common spaces. American journal of community psychology, 26(6), 823–851.

Larondelle, N., Haase, D., & Kabisch, N. (2014). Mapping the diversity of regulating ecosystem services in European cities. Global Environmental Change, 26, 119–129.

Le, T., Wang, L., & Haghani, S. (2019, May). Design and implementation of a DASH7-based wireless sensor network for green infrastructure. In: World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2019. American Society of Civil Engineers. pp. 118–129.

Lee, A. C., & Maheswaran, R. (2011). The health benefits of urban green spaces: a review of the evidence. Journal of public health, 33(2), 212–222.

Li, F., Fisher, K. J., Brownson, R. C., & Bosworth, M. (2005). Multilevel modelling of built environment characteristics related to neighbourhood walking activity in older adults. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 59(7), 558–564.

Liu, H., Li, F., Li, J., & Zhang, Y. (2017). The relationships between urban parks, residents’ physical activity, and mental health benefits: A case study from Beijing, China. Journal of environmental management, 190, 223–230.

Mao, Q., Wang, L., Guo, Q., et al. (2020). Evaluating cultural ecosystem services of urban residential green spaces from the perspective of residents’ satisfaction with green space. Frontiers in public health, 8, 226. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.00226

Morris, N. (2003). Health, well-being and open space. Edinburgh College of Art and Heriot-Watt University.

National Records of Scotland Web Team. (2013a). National Records of Scotland.

National Records of Scotland Web Team. (2013b). National Records of Scotland.

Nilsson, K., Nielsen, T. S., Aalbers, C., et al. (2014). Strategies for sustainable urban development and urban-rural linkages. European Journal of Spatial Development, 25.

Ofonedu, M. E., Percy, W. H., Harris-Britt, A., & Belcher, H. M. (2013). Depression in inner city African American youth: A phenomenological study. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22, 96–106.

Okvat, H. A., & Zautra, A. J. (2013). Sowing Seeds of Resilience: Community Gardening in a Post-Disaster Context. Greening in the Red Zone, 73–90. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9947-1_5

Ord, K., Mitchell, R., & Pearce, J. (2013). Is level of neighbourhood green space associated with physical activity in green space?. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10, 1–8.

Paquet, C., Orschulok, T. P., Coffee, N. T., et al. (2013). Are accessibility and characteristics of public open spaces associated with a better cardiometabolic health? Landscape and urban planning, 118, 70–78.

Park, Y. S., Konge, L., & Artino, A. R. (2020). The positivism paradigm of research. Academic medicine, 95(5), 690–694. https://doi.org/10.1097/acm.0000000000003093

Peters, K., Elands, B., & Buijs, A. (2010). Social Interactions in urban parks: Stimulating social cohesion? Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 9(2), 93–100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2009.11.003

Potwarka, L. R., Kaczynski, A. T., & Flack, A. L. (2008). Places to play: association of park space and facilities with healthy weight status among children. Journal of community health, 33 (5), 344–350. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10900-008-9104-x

Pouso, S., Borja, Á., Fleming, L. E., et al. (2021). Contact with blue-green spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown beneficial for mental health. Science of The Total Environment, 756, 143984. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143984

Rethorst, C. D., Wipfli, B. M., & Landers, D. M. (2009). The antidepressive effects of exercise: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Sports medicine, 39, 491–511. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200939060-00004

Rundle, A., Field, S., Park, Y., et al. (2008). Personal and neighborhood socioeconomic status and indices of neighborhood walk-ability predict body mass index in New York City. Social Science & Medicine, 67(12), 1951–1958. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.036

Sandelowski, M. (2000). Combining qualitative and quantitative sampling, data collection, and analysis techniques in mixed‐method studies. Research in Nursing & Health, 23(3), 246–255. https://doi.org/10.1002/1098-240x(200006)23:3<246::aid-nur9>3.0.co;2-h

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students. Pearson education.

Schetke, S., Qureshi, S., Lautenbach, S., & Kabisch, N. (2016). What determines the use of urban green spaces in highly urbanized areas? – Examples from two fast growing Asian cities. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 16, 150–159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2016.02.009

Schipperijn, J., Bentsen, P., Troelsen, J., Toftager, M., & Stigsdotter, U. K. (2013). Associations between physical activity and characteristics of urban green space. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 12(1), 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2012.12.002

Shaw, K. A., Gennat, H. C., O’Rourke, P., & Del Mar, C. (2006). Exercise for overweight or obesity. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010(1). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd003817.pub3

Shen, J., Li, M., Wang, Q., Liu, R., Ji, M., & An, R. (2022). The Influence of Green Space on Obesity in China: A Systematic Review. Obesity Facts, 15(4), 463–472. Portico. https://doi.org/10.1159/000524857

Sileyew, K. J. (2019). Research design and methodology. Cyberspace, 1-12.

SIMD (Scottish index of multiple deprivation). Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. (n.d.-a). Available online: https://simd.scot/#/simd2020/BTTTFTT/14/-3.1777/55.9565/ (accessed on May 22, 2023).

Singh, N., Singh, S., & Mall, R. K. (2020). Urban ecology and human health: implications of urban heat island, air pollution and climate change nexus. Urban Ecology, 317–334. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-820730-7.00017-3

Southern, R. (2002). Understanding Multi-Sectoral Regeneration Partnerships as a Form of Local Governance. Local Government Studies, 28(2), 16–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/714004146

Stigsdotter, U. K., Ekholm, O., Schipperijn, J., Toftager, M., Kamper-Jørgensen, F., & Randrup, T. B. (2010). Health promoting outdoor environments - Associations between green space, and health, health-related quality of life and stress based on a Danish national representative survey. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 38(4), 411–417. https://doi.org/10.1177/1403494810367468

Su, J. G., Jerrett, M., de Nazelle, A., & Wolch, J. (2011). Does exposure to air pollution in urban parks have socioeconomic, racial or ethnic gradients? Environmental Research, 111(3), 319–328. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2011.01.002

Sugiyama, T., Francis, J., Middleton, N. J., Owen, N., & Giles-Corti, B. (2010). Associations Between Recreational Walking and Attractiveness, Size, and Proximity of Neighborhood Open Spaces. American Journal of Public Health, 100(9), 1752–1757. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2009.182006

Sumi, A. (2016). The Vitality of Parks and Green Spaces on Environment and Health of the people: A study in Shillong city, Meghalaya, North East India.

Takano, T. (2002). Urban residential environments and senior citizens’ longevity in megacity areas: the importance of walkable green spaces. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 56(12), 913–918. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.56.12.913

The value of City of Edinburgh Council’s parks. (n.d.). Available online: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/file/24775/ the-value-of-the-council-s-parks (accessed on May 22, 2023).

Tsunetsugu, Y., Lee, J., Park, B. J., et al. (2013). Physiological and psychological effects of viewing urban forest landscapes assessed by multiple measurements. Landscape and Urban Planning, 113, 90–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.01.014

Tyrväinen, L., Ojala, A., Korpela, K., et al. (2014). The influence of urban green environments on stress relief measures: A field experiment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.12.005

van den Berg, A. E., Maas, J., Verheij, R. A., & Groenewegen, P. P. (2010). Green space as a buffer between stressful life events and health. Social Science & Medicine, 70(8), 1203–1210. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.01.002

Wang, H., Dai, X., Wu, J., et al. (2019). Influence of urban green open space on residents’ physical activity in China. BMC Public Health, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7416-7

Warburton, D. E. R. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), 801–809. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351

Westerterp, K. R. (2009). Assessment of physical activity: a critical appraisal. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 105(6), 823–828. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-009-1000-2

Wolch, J. R., Byrne, J., & Newell, J. P. (2014). Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough.’ Landscape and Urban Planning, 125, 234–244. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.01.017

World Bank Group. (2011). Guide to climate change adaptation in cities. World Bank.

Wright, S., O’Brien, B. C., Nimmon, L., et al. (2016). Research design considerations. Journal of graduate medical education, 8(1): 97–98.

Wu, J., Jenerette, G. D., Buyantuyev, A., & Redman, C. L. (2011). Quantifying spatiotemporal patterns of urbanization: The case of the two fastest growing metropolitan regions in the United States. Ecological Complexity, 8(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecocom.2010.03.002

Zhang, S., Li, X., Chen, Z., & Ouyang, Y. (2022). A bibliometric analysis of the study of urban green spaces and health behaviors. Frontiers in Public Health, 10, 1005647. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.1005647

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24294/jipd.v8i4.3162


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2024 Weijian Zhang, Yan Li, Peilin Guo, Xitie Guo

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

This site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.