Public open space, physical activity, urban design and public health: Concepts, methods and research agenda

Health Place. 2015 May:33:75-82. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2015.02.009. Epub 2015 Mar 19.


Public open spaces such as parks and green spaces are key built environment elements within neighbourhoods for encouraging a variety of physical activity behaviours. Over the past decade, there has been a burgeoning number of active living research studies examining the influence of public open space on physical activity. However, the evidence shows mixed associations between different aspects of public open space (e.g., proximity, size, quality) and physical activity. These inconsistencies hinder the development of specific evidence-based guidelines for urban designers and policy-makers for (re)designing public open space to encourage physical activity. This paper aims to move this research agenda forward, by identifying key conceptual and methodological issues that may contribute to inconsistencies in research examining relations between public open space and physical activity.

Keywords: Built environment; Neighbourhood; Parks; Urban form; Walking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environment Design*
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Parks, Recreational*
  • Public Health*
  • Residence Characteristics