Greenspace has been associated with health benefits in many contexts. An important pathway may be through outdoor physical activity. We use a novel approach to examine the link between greenspace microenvironments and outdoor physical activity levels in the HEALS study conducted in Edinburgh (UK), the Netherlands, and Athens and Thessaloniki (Greece).
Using physical activity tracker recordings, 118 HEALS participants with young children were classified with regard to daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA); 60 were classified with regard to the metabolic equivalent task (MET)-minutes for each of the 1014 active trips they made. Greenspace indicators were generated for Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), tree cover density (TCD), and green land use (GLU). We employed linear mixed-effects models to analyse (1) daily MVPA in relation to greenspace within 300 m and 1000 m of residential addresses and (2) trip MET-minutes in relation to average greenspace within a 50 m buffer of walking/cycling routes. Models were adjusted for activity, walkability, bluespace, age, sex, car ownership, dog ownership, season, weekday/weekend day, and local meteorology.
There was no clear association between MVPA-minutes and any residential greenspace measure. For example, in fully adjusted models, a 10 percentage point increase in NDVI within 300 m of home was associated with a daily increase of 1.14 (95% CI − 0.41 to 2.70) minutes of MVPA. However, we did find evidence to indicate greenspace markers were positively linked to intensity and duration of activity: in fully adjusted models, 10 percentage point increases in trip NDVI, TCD, and GLU were associated with increases of 10.4 (95% CI: 4.43 to 16.4), 10.6 (95% CI: 4.96 to 16.3), and 3.36 (95% CI: 0.00 to 6.72) MET-minutes, respectively. The magnitude of associations with greenspace tended to be greater for cycling.
More strenuous or longer walking and cycling trips occurred in environments with more greenspace, but levels of residential greenspace did not have a clear link with outdoor MVPA. To build on our research, we suggest future work examine larger, more diverse populations and investigate the influence of greenspace for trip purpose and route preference.