Green spaces for active lifestyles, healthy cities and municipalities -

Going Out for Health 3

Going Out for Health 3 programme builds on Going Out for Health 2 and further develops and implements the content of the Going Out for Health - Expert basis for designing green spaces to promote physical activity of the population (UIRS 2017-2019) project and its outputs, in particular the general guidelines and the Going Out for Health Handbook. The programme focuses on raising awareness, informing and educating both municipalities and regions on the importance, possibilities and ways to ensure adequate provision of green spaces for regular, daily physical activity of the population as a healthy lifestyle.

The programme aims to provide municipalities with the most useful and practical expert support in the provision and planning of high-quality, equitably usable and accessible green spaces, of an adequate size and spatial distribution, that enable and encourage physical activity.

The programme will provide training and advice workshops to provide expert support in finding practical solutions to the various problems and challenges faced by municipalities in planning green spaces for physical activity and healthy lifestyles. The programme is aimed at several different audiences, including spatial planners and decision-makers in municipalities and regions across Slovenia, as well as other municipal services and organisations within local communities working in the field of public health, healthy environment and physical activity. The programme will also seek to strengthen cross-sectoral cooperation to improve conditions and measures to facilitate and promote physical activity and health at a municipal level.

The nature and natural characteristics of open space contribute to its usability and attractiveness for a wide range of activities. In addition, green spaces have a high ecological value and make an important contribution to biodiversity and the overall quality of the environment. Due to their specific spatial characteristics, they are also an important structural entity of cities and other settlements which make a key contribution to their morphology structure and therefore spatial identity.

The health of the population, public health, is linked to the quality of living conditions and thus to the quality of the living environment. Access to adequate and good quality green spaces can achieve different health benefits in different ways. Due to their natural characteristics, green spaces are of great importance for achieving a good quality environment, as they have a restorative effect on people, stimulate physical activity of local residents in the outdoor green environment, influence social cohesion and improve environmental factors - all of which have a direct impact on people's health and well-being.

The contact with nature has proven to have a very positive effect on people's well-being and cannot be replaced. Similarly, the direct and immediate impact of natural elements on improving environmental factors cannot be replaced. A favourable microclimate, air, water and soil quality, a pleasant sound environment and direct contact with nature are important factors also as attractiveness to visit and use outdoor space. Publicly accessible open space allows social bonding and interaction between users of the space, which is also an important contributor to the well-being, inclusion and consequently health and vitality of people in local communities. In this context, it should be stressed that the quality of the design and condition of green spaces is of great importance, often more important than their quantity in urban areas.

The publication consists of results and findings from the programme "Expert basis for spatial planning of green spaces to promote physical activity in the population" (also called Going out for Health - Ven za zdavje), which was co-funded by the Ministry of Health as part of the "Dober tek Slovenija" (Good run/bon appetit Slovenia) effort to get more exercise and healthier diets, under the 2017-2019 call for proposals in the field of nutrition and physical activity for health.

The lessons learned were based on a review of the literature, expert judgement and testing on a pilot case study in the municipality of Kočevje. The pilot case tested the adequacy of different aspects and their relevance for the design of green spaces to promote physical activity at municipal level. On the basis of a spatial analysis and evaluation of selected areas in the municipality of Kočevje (the urban settlement of Kočevje and smaller rural settlements, i.e. Kočevska Reka and Mozelj) and an analysis of the municipality's current spatial plan, the feasibility and applicability of guidelines for strategic and more detailed planning level were tested, taking into consideration green space planning and design for physical activity. Various methods were used to support the work, such as spatial and demographic analyses, surveys and interviews. The programme also included four expert workshops with participants from different fields in public health, a number of presentations, thematic lectures and a consultative cross-sectoral workshop with ministry representatives.

The handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the topics, from the visions stressed in international resolutions and national programmes to research findings on public health in relation to physical activity and green spaces, on people's needs and the types of physical activity as the key to maintaining health, on urban green spaces and theis types, their functions, and their design to achieve quality space. The focus is on the qualitative aspects of green space design and recommendations for spatial planners and municipalities to ensure planning and management of high quality open spaces.

The chapters of the handbook answer specific questions:
- WHY: why health and spatial planning are related topics,
- WHO AND WHAT: how to understand users and their needs,
- WHERE: in what kind of open space the activities are carried out,
- HOW: how to approach the design of green spaces to achieve their integrity, suitability and quality.

The Handbook is a guide to be used by a wide range of professionals, as it addresses an important aspect of improving the quality of life in urban areas and the potential to influence healthy lifestyles through appropriate open space planning and design.

It is aimed primarily for local authorities and planners and designers of public open spaces, who can use it to ensure quality conditions for outdoor activities and active lifestyles. The handbook provides an overview of relevant aspects and general guidance for practical design decisions and adaptations to local spatial context. The topics are based also on the principles of sustainable spatial planning.

The handbook is also aimed for local administrations, especially in spatial development, ensuring the quality environment and the opportunities for outdoor physical activity of the population. The guide can be useful for the preparation of the objectives and vision in all spatial planning documents (on regional and local level - RPP, OPP, OPN, ordinance on urban planning and OPPN). It can slso serve as an incentive for local services and decision-makers to take a more active approach to ensure a quality living environment for all users of public space.

The manual is meant also as support for the Ministry of Health and the Ministry's authorised functionaries for the preparation of specific guidelines and in the assessment of spatial plans in spatial planning procedures.

The content of the manual is a starting point for the definition and integration of new indicators for public health assessment in Slovenian municipalities, and in this sense it is designed to support the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), which provides health monitoring for all municipalities. It is also an expert basis for rising awareness and communication the topic with other ministries.

It is also written for residents, associations and NGOs as a source of information and a starting point for initiatives to improve opportunities for physical activity in the local outdoor environment.

Finally, it is intended for public health professionals at national, regional and local level to learn about the possibilities and opportunities green spaces have - all themes that link the broad fields of spatial planning and public health. It is also useful for health and physical activity promotion for practitioners - in health, sport and education institutions, work and non-governmental organisations, and the local community in general.

  • Green space planning at municipal level should be comprehensive, inclusive, systemic and cross-sectoral, involving the local community in the process. Smaller municipalities in particular need support and expertise in this respect, which should be provided in a systematic way at national or regional level.
  • It is important to bear in mind that encouraging spatial conditions for everyday, ordinary activities such as walking and cycling (also as mobility style), various forms of play, dancing, socialising, gardening, etc., are particularly important for an active lifestyle. These do not require special facilities or expensive equipment, but rather a general quality, good accessibility and variety of open space. This applies in particular to green spaces, which also provide contact with nature, which is very important for health and well-being, and conditions for active mobility in local urban environment.
  • The provision of high quality, public green spaces should therefore not be seen as an expense, but as a  long-term investment in the development of society and also economy. This applies not only to urban environments, but also to rural areas, where the spacial conditions for different types of activiries are often very poor.
  • Well-designed green spaces will also improve the long-term resilience and adaptability of cities and communities to health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to natural disasters and climate change.
  • Spatial planners are required to have the appropriate expertise (including a landscape architect) to plan and design public open space, green spaces and landscapes, and to have a good understanding of both their benefits and their risks to the health taking into consideration different groups of the population.
  • Adequate and effective planning requires knowledge and consideration of the local environment, spatial context, the needs of the population (diverse groups) and other conditions specific to the local community and space. In order to ensure the improvement of provision with green spaces or their quality, expert spatial analyses should be carried out, which include the current state of open spaces and the provision of green spaces in the city/settlement.
  • In order to ensure that development decisions are effective, special emphasis should on identifying the potentials and analysing problems, involving all relevant departments and actors at municipal and community level. Measures should be properly integrated into spatial planning acts at different levels (regional and local - RPP, OPP, OPN).
  • There is a need to prepare appropriate project - design and built documentation for green spaces and other public open spaces to ensure the quality of construction, including maintenance instructions and the establishment of appropriate long-term management.


  • The importance of green spaces for physical activity and health is crucial argument for promoting the principles of professional, integrated and high-quality green space planning as integral part of spatial planning documents. These themes apply to all aspects of green spaces (environmental, morphological, social, economic), but especially to social ones, ensuring public access to green spaces close to the homes of residents. All types of green spaces including the potential open spaces should be taken into consideration, for example areas in primary uses (forests, agricultural areas etc.) in the planning process. There is also a need to create better links between the urban and surrounding area - the hinterland or countryside, thereby further enhancing opportunities for physical activity. The most appropriate approach to this is green system planning, the green system as expert basis can be prepared on larger or smaller scale, for cities, small settlements or at the level of the whole municipality, depending on the spatial context and needs.
  • It is necessary to prepare appropriate expert planning bases which, in addition to analyses of space, demography and needs, also include an analysis of the existing provision of green spaces and the defined local standards for improvements.
  • Quality design of green spaces for active lifestyles should be based on taking into account the diversity of characteristics and typologies of green spaces, knowledge of their suitability and necessary capacity for different forms of use (including physical activity), and knowledge of the needs, preferences and motivations of the local population.
  • In order to make the space attractive for active use, the action part of the green space plan must not only stress importance of good quality design and public accessibility, but also for its proper maintenance and long-term management. The design of green spaces should also allow non-conflicting co-use by all groups of inhabitants. A very important aspect is the design of multifunctional public facilities, especially where there is little open space available and in smaller towns and settlements.
  • It is necessary to examine the possibilities for adapting the use of green spaces in the cases of special events such as pandemic covid-19 (e.g. whether the use of green spaces is multifunctional or adaptable, whether the area allows use of space at an appropriate distance and whether the capacities of the individual areas are sufficient, whether spatial or temporal separation of uses is necessary and possible, etc.).
Calendar of events

Going out for health

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Basic information

Programme/project title: Going out for Health 3 - Green spaces for active lifestyles, healthy cities and municipalities 

Programme duration: 11/2022 – 10/2025

Contracting Authority: Ministry of Health of Republic of Slovenia (Ministrstvo za zdravje)

Contractor: Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia (Urbanistični inštitut Republike Slovenije)

Co-funding of programme in the field of nutrition and physical activity for health until 2025, (by the Ministry of Health , call for proposals published in 2022).


Research Group

Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia (UIRS)

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