Most people see rural areas as “exercise-friendly” environments. The countryside is relaxing, has little traffic and much green space, all of which make for pleasant wandering or cycling. Nevertheless, the research conducted at Gent University however shows that this does not necessarily mean that country folk exercise more. Instead, city folk exercise more - on average 15 minutes per day more than country dwellers in order to get from A to B or for work-related reasons. But city dwellers also walk more when off-duty. Walking in town seems to be just as attractive as walking in the country.
As regards sports, there is not much difference between the inhabitants of the two environments. The particular characteristics of a city centre such as high population density, presence of shops and presence of public services – all within walking and cycling distance - together with fast transport links between them appear to influence the amount of exercise people do. The fact that a city’s heavy traffic may be dangerous for both pedestrians and cyclists or the fact that there is less green space does not seem to matter much.
Research done in America and in Australia has also shown that city life stimulates its adult inhabitants to exercise more, according to Van Dyck, whose research now shows that this is also the case for Europe.
According to the researcher from Gent, putting this knowledge into practice within urban renewal projects means that city dwellers should live where shops, schools, offices, and public services are accessible and reachable via fast transport links – all within an environment with a capacious housing density. In this manner inhabitants will automatically exercise more without having to think about it or having to make an extra effort to do so.
The countryside has less exercise-stimulating characteristics than the city, but its inhabitants can be made aware of the need for exercise. The country offers much scope for exercise too, but its inhabitants must make more deliberate choices in this direction, for example by organising a walking or cycling tour or by becoming a member of a sports club.