Green spaces to promote physical activity


A common feature of all green spaces is the presence of natural elements which, on the one hand, give a specific character and, on the other hand, provide a wide variety of functions which have an important impact on the quality of environment and public health. Among the most important functions are the influence of the on the overall quality of the living environment (cleanliness of air, water, soil, favourable micro- and mesoclimatic conditions, acoustic environment, ambience, visual quality, etc.), the opportunities for contact with nature, socialising and networking, and the space for various forms of passive and active outdoor activities. The aspect of potentials focuses on a critical review of different studies as well as spatial situations to understand the relationship between people's needs and the possibilities to meet them in the context of green spaces, and on a review of the importance of green spaces for promoting physical activity and their crucial characteristics.


Understanding the relationship between different types of physical activity and the spatial characteristics needed to support and/or encourage them is crucial to define an appropriate typology of green spaces in terms of promoting different types of physical activity. This part of research work will examine the possibilities for the typology of green spaces through a process of analysis of the activities or types of physical activity themselves, their spatial requirements, the users or target groups undertaking the activity, and the temporal components (activity intervals, specificities in relation to season, weather conditions, etc.). Guidelines will be identified for the design of a typology of green spaces for physical activity according to the situation in Slovenian settlements - using the pilot case as an example.

Foto: © IN.KA.BI., 2010.


From the view of the user, it is essential to have an appropriate spatial situation that ensures the provision of good quality and adequately located green spaces, which enables the use of these spaces. In this context, the project will focus on identifying and justifying the necessary characteristics and quality aspects of the design and key elements of green spaces to promote physical activity. The focus will be on spatial characteristics such as accessibility, safety, connectivity, presence of natural elements, environmental quality, amenities, maintenance, etc.


Comprehensive and inclusive green space planning involves addressing all aspects of green spaces - social, ecological, morphological and economic - which each have their own impact on the quality of the living environment. The green space planning part will address different options and contemporary approaches to integrated green space planning, as well as trends and situation in Slovenia. It will focus on strategic green space planning, such as the establishment of a green space system, and also provide importantce of the aspects related to green space planning at the spatial implementation level. A pilot case will be used to test the usefulness and relevance of the guidelines and to demonstrate how they can be applied in practice. 

Sustainable mobility

Foto: © E-fronta.

Linking with providing and promoting the use of green spaces for physical activity

Due to its strong focus on environmental impacts, sustainable mobility is often understood as a field where traffic and its associated negative impacts are reduced. However, the key focus of activity is mainly on providing conditions for safe and comfortable walking and cycling, as well as the use of public transport (which always includes walking). As walking and cycling use our bodies as propulsion, the term active mobility has been coined abroad to refer to them. It is particularly important to promote active daily mobility, i.e. travelling to school or work, because it also has an impact on an individual's activity habits at other times of the day, i.e. in the field of sport and recreation.

The project will investigate the impact of the availability, accessibility and quality of green spaces on people's physical activity for active mobility. We will focus on several themes. We will look at the environmental quality (air and noise) of the network of pedestrian and cycling links and the potential for using green routes for these links. Another major area will be the provision of independent access to green spaces for children to promote their independence. A third area will be to ensure road safety through separate or parallel infrastructure for walking and cycling along main traffic routes.

Accessibility and safety of green spaces for physical activity

are among the basic requirements for quality green space design. Green spaces need to be planned where people live and be publicly accessible, if they are to be used as environments to promote physical activity. In planning practice, this means that the types of green spaces (parks, playgrounds, promenades, sports fields, etc.) are in accessible locations, adequately equipped, safe, adapted to all users and respectful to the local environment.

In this context, the project will address three interlinked aspects:

  • accessibility of the green space areas (connected to planning and municipal plan),

  • demographic aspects of accessibility of green spaces for all potential users in the local environment, for current and future prognosis,

  • the accessibility and safety of green spaces and recreational areas for all users.

The work on this topic will result in stressing criteria/indicators for analysing the potential users of green spaces, assessing the accessibility of different types of green spaces. The project pilot area will be used for the illustration of all three aspects of green spaces accessibility.

Foto: © Blaž Jamšek, Fotoarhiv UIRS, Human Cities, 2016.

Public participation

Foto: © Blaž Jamšek, Fotoarhiv UIRS, Human Cities, 2017.

Participatory, bottom-up (bottom-up) management of public open spaces in the city can make an important contribution to developing a sense of belonging to the local community, to increasing cohesion between residents, and to delivering spatial arrangements that are more responsive to the needs and expectations of inhabitants. This approach to urban green open spaces also allows local residents to be actively involved in the maintenance of local green spaces, which generally ensures their continued maintenance, reduces direct maintenance costs and, above all, contributes to the regular physical activity of residents. In order to achieve the desired results, approaches to participatory management and maintenance of open urban green spaces should be tailored to the characteristics and capacities of the specific local community.

Motivation and perception

The experiential and perception aspects of urban green open space have a significant impact on the well-being of inhabitants. Greenery has a proven therapeutic effect, a positive impact on the urban microclimate and contributes to the visual and acoustic image of the city throughout the seasons. It is important that green open spaces are present in perception of citizens as pleasant and accessible, as they are more likely to use them in their daily routines and for recreational purposes. The process of experiencing space is conditioned by the characteristics of the observer, but there can also be general culturally conditioned patterns of experience. We need to make urban open spaces so that they are perceived as attractive by citizens and therefore more likely to be actively used.

Foto: © Blaž Jamšek, Fotoarhiv UIRS, Human Cities, 2017.

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