Energy expenditure on recreational visits to different natural environments

Lewis R Elliott, Mathew P White, Adrian H Taylor, Stephen Herbert
Social Science & Medicine 2015, 139: 53-60
Physical inactivity poses a significant challenge to physical and mental health. Environmental approaches to tackle physical inactivity have identified natural environments as potentially important public health resources. Despite this, little is known about characteristics of the activity involved when individuals visit different types of natural environment. Using Natural England's Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey, we examined 71,603 English respondents' recreational visits to natural environments in the past week. Specifically, we examined the intensity of the activities they undertook on the visits (METs), the duration of their visit, and the associated total energy expenditure (MET minutes). Visits to countryside and urban greenspace environments were associated with more intense activities than visits to coastal environments. However, visits to coastal environments were associated with the most energy expenditure overall due to their relatively long duration. Results differed by the urbanity or rurality of the respondent's residence and also how far respondents travelled to their destination. Knowledge of what types of natural environment afford the highest volumes and intensities of physical activity could inform landscape architecture and exercise prescriptions. Isolating activity-supporting characteristics of natural environments that can be translated into urban design is important in providing physical activity opportunities for those less able to access expansive environments.

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