Green Space Equals Less Active Population

A study finds that people with easy access to public parks and lands exercise less

I never would’ve guessed that living within 2 miles of an open space would be an indicator of a less active population, but that’s what Dutch researchers discovered after surveying the habits of 5,000 residents. The Dutch researchers think the correlation between open space, or green space,—think undeveloped county or state parks—and inactivity has to do with the relative remoteness of these spaces. Because of that, residents have to drive more often to go to the store, work, or socialize. Urbanites, on the other hand, will walk or ride their bikes to do these things. They’ll even walk or ride more often for leisure than the people living next to the green spaces.

The findings came out of the Dutch’s quest to categorize the benefits of accessible green space on a population. As lead researcher Jolanda Maas explains, “We found that physical activity is not a likely cause behind the apparent relationship between green space and health… People’s perception of their green space may motivate their behavior more than the availability of green space itself.”

Despite the seeming bad news to all those people living next to a trail or public open space, I was excited to see that Maas’s and her colleagues do agree on one thing, that living next to a green or open space is an indicator of better overall health. In other words, you may be an inactive sloth if you live near a public forest or field, but at least you’re statistically healthier than all the city folks driving up to the trailhead.

To read the report on the study, click here. I welcome a dialogue on this intriguing discovery.