The role of natural environments within women's everyday health and wellbeing in Copenhagen, Denmark

Felicity Thomas
Health & Place 2015, 35: 187-95
Urbanisation has been linked with sedentary lifestyles and poor mental health outcomes amongst women. The potential for natural environments to enhance physical activity and mental wellbeing in urban areas is now well recognised. However, little is known about the ways that women use natural spaces for health and wellbeing within the context of their everyday lives. This paper draws on ideas developed in the therapeutic landscapes literature to examine how experiences in different types of green and blue space provide important health and wellbeing benefits for women in Copenhagen, Denmark. As well as facilitating physical exercise, such spaces were found to enable a range of more subtle benefits that helped to restore mental wellbeing through stress and anxiety alleviation, the facilitation of emotional perspective, clarity and reassurance, and through the maintenance of positive family dynamics. However, amongst some women who were overweight, the socio-political associations they made with natural environments deterred use of such spaces. Such findings challenge dominant planning and policy assumptions that equate open public access to natural spaces with universal benefit.

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