Active living: the impact of renovating urban open spaces on increasing the level of physical activity among social groups

Hiske Wiggers, Roya Shokoohi

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Introduction The provision of active parks/public open space is the key factor in promoting active living, because people and specially low-income and elderlies are being more interested in doing non-organized/informal, and no-cost sports/physical activities in outdoor spaces in recent decades (Borgers et al, 2013; Thiesen-Raaphorst, 2015; Sallis, Owen & Fisher, 2008; Humpel, Owen & Leslie, 2002). Giving the concern about low rate of physical activities among low-income minority, elderlies and over weighted people, the municipality of Groningen invested in renovation of parks/ open spaces, in order to encourage all people to become more physically active. To what degree park renovations accomplish this goal is unknown. Method We used the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC), to measure open space/park users and their physical activity levels after the renovation. We also surveyed parks users before and after renovation, and local residents about their use of the parks. Results All respondents were happy with the renovation that is increasing the social cohesion of the neighborhood. The users are mainly active young athletes and children, and the renovation significantly increased their park use. However, the improved parks/spaces do not attract inactive people. Weather condition and the different time of the day were not associated with using the park. Conclusion Park’s improvements can have a significant impact on increasing the frequency of park use, however, it is not enough to encourage inactive people to be physically active. Key words Physical activity, active living, open spaces, Groningen Reverences Borgers, J., Thibaut, E., Van der Meerschen, H., Van Reusel, B., Vos, S., & Scheerder, J. (2015). Sports participation styles revisited: A time-trend study in Belgium from the 1970s to the 2000s. International review for the sociology of sport, 50(1), 45-63. Bouckaert, G. (2006). Prestaties en prestatiemanagement in de publieke sector. Tijdschrift voor Economie en Management, 51(3), 237. Humpel, N., Owen, N., & Leslie, E. (2002). Environmental factors associated with adults’ participation in physical activity: a review. American journal of preventive medicine, 22(3), 188-199. Sallis, J. F., Cerin, E., Conway, T. L., Adams, M. A., Frank, L. D., Pratt, M., ... & Davey, R. (2016). Physical activity in relation to urban environments in 14 cities worldwide: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet. Tiessen-Raaporst, A. (2015). Rapportage sport 2014. The Hague, SCP.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Mar 2017
Event14th European Association for Sociology of Sport (EASS) Conference 2017: "The Values of Sport: between tradition and (post) modernity" - Charles University, Faculty of Physical Education and Sport, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 14 Jun 201717 Jun 2017
Conference number: 14th


Conference14th European Association for Sociology of Sport (EASS) Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleEASS 2017
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
Internet address


  • physical activity
  • open spaces
  • active living
  • groningen


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