Physical inactivity has become one of the most important global health challenges contributing to approximately 3.2 million deaths each year. Regular physical activity is an effective preventative and rehabilitative intervention for over 30 distinct diseases or health conditions. There is now a plethora of programs and policies that educate about physical activity and recommend and promote physical activity around the world. However, despite the prevalence of recommendations and programs it is estimated that only 1 person in every 4 undertakes enough physical activity.
One vital factor that has been generally overlooked is that the modern day environment may not be conducive to some population groups becoming and remaining physically active. In fact the modern day environment might actually be inviting sedentary behaviour. Concerns over public health issues related to physical inactivity may be addressed by designing environments that provide opportunities for different population groups to enhance physical activity levels and gain the health and wellbeing benefits of physical activity. Knowing how to design environments that invite opportunities for physical activity, exercise and play in sedentary individuals is now becoming essential. We need to step away from telling people what to do and move more towards providing environments that support physical activity. Exercise scientists, health professionals, planners, designers and engineers, and psychologists, should collaborate in co-designing environments and playscapes that facilitate physical activity participation in different population sub-groups. Concepts in ecological dynamics emphasise the relationship between the person and their environment. By (re)designing environments that invite physical activity rather than sedentary behaviour we can enhance physical activity and the health benefits of physical activity. It is quite clear from a broad range of research that designing green communities and neighbour hoods will go a long way to increasing physical activity levels and reducing the health issues related to sedentary behaviour.
For more on this issue please read the special edition to be published this year in the journal ‘Sports Medicine’. Online first articles are already available.