urban planning & infrastructures
Closeby sports facilities with high availabilities do not guarantee strong levels of physical activities
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While previous studies have suggested a positive association between physical activity and the presence of facilities nearby, Jens Hoyer-Kruse, Eleanor Boyle and Jasper Schipperijn – from the Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics of the University of Southern Denmark – find that neither distance to nor availability of sport facilities were predictors for participation in sport. Furthermore, their study shows that many adults do not use their nearest sports facility.
This result might have implications for policy makers and urban planners that aim at creating infrastructure for engaging in sport activities. Indeed, the authors stress that there are many factors associated with the use of sports facilities and participation in sport activities that cannot be solely influenced by urban planning. They add that a systematic analysis of the municipality taking into account preferences of the local population is key when cities wish to implement policies to increase levels of physical activities. This is shown by interesting factors that were identified through this study:
The type of activities practiced
Depending on the type of physical activities practiced, the users did not mind commuting for a longer time. However, for swimming halls and fitness centres, the respondents used the nearest facility. The authors explain this by the lower availability of these types of facilities in the municipalities compared to sports halls or soccer fields. In Denmark, most swimming pools are indoor pools and the fact that they are expensive to operate makes them scarce, but desirable no less.
The quality or attributes of the sport facility is an important factor to consider
Large sports centres with more than one hall might support a large amount of activities compared to small sports halls, which may result in a higher general usability.
The maintenance of the sport facility
The level of maintenance of the facility may have an impact on its attractiveness, according to the authors.
The availability of a car
Almost all of the respondents to the survey owned a car, which may explain why a majority of the respondents did not use the nearest facilities to practice their activity. Indeed, with a car, sports facilities that are further away are within easy reach.
The authors conclude by saying that more research is needed to assess other possible predictors for the use of sport facilities for example, the activities offered by sports clubs, the role of social relations and the quality of sport facilities.