Why city life may be bad for you

 
Man walking People say they would be more active if there were safe and attractive green spaces near to where they live

When it comes to getting people to be more active, much of the attention is focused on the improving sports facilities, encouraging people to join the gym or lambasting schools for not doing enough PE.

But could another crucial factor be the way neighbourhoods are designed?

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) thinks so.

The organisation has carried out an analysis of the nine major cities in England - Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield - to explore this.

Its researchers looked at housing density and the availability of green spaces.

'Healthier cities'

Start Quote

It's vital that planners and developers take the lead and ensure healthier cities”

End Quote Stephen Hodder Royal Institute of British Architects

The least active areas - deprived parts of Birmingham, Newcastle and London - had twice the housing density and 20% less green space than the most active places.

This is important.

Nearly 60% of people living in these cities do not do the recommended levels of activity.

But, crucially, three quarters said they would be happy to walk more and get outside in the fresh air if their local environment was more suitable, according to a poll cited by RIBA.

People cited safer streets and more attractive green spaces as two key factors.

RIBA has published the findings as it wants councils to take note.

Under the shake-up of the NHS last year, local government was given responsibility for public health.

So RIBA president Stephen Hodder said he wanted councils to ensure public health becomes an important part of the planning process.

"It's vital that planners and developers take the lead and ensure healthier cities," he added.

Play area in Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire The play area in Huthwaite was developed thanks to a lottery grant

To be fair, this is already happening in many places.

Health impact assessments have become a crucial part of the process.

But as always - for councils which have seen their funding cut dramatically in recent years - it comes down to money.

One of the examples of good practice cited by RIBA in its report was the re-development of the Brownfield Estate, an inner-London housing estate.

It under-went a major £7m building programme with money invested from a variety of public and private sources.

The project saw the walk-ways between flats become "green grids" lined with grass and trees, while play areas were created across the site.

Another scheme highlighted was the creation of a natural play area with climbing frames, a water foundation and wetland on a disused field in the former mining town of Huthwaite in north Nottinghamshire.

Once empty, the area is now packed with children (when the weather permits).

But this project was only possible because the area was given over £200,000 of lottery money.

 
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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 130.

    Get an allotment, if you haven't access to a large garden.

    Food you know and exercise.

    Perhaps allotments should be available by prescription!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 129.

    "95 - encourage biking". Sure, but in London and other cities, no room for safe cycle roads. (Boris's Blue Routes a disaster - how many killed last month?) In the country, no room for cycle roads as in Holland. Also, cyclists need to be insured, as a lot ride totally unsafely, listening to iPods, jumping lights, etc.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 128.

    @87.An Over Populated Planet
    Some of you are going to realise at some point that human population numbers cannot go on increasing

    No it can't but not in the way you think, the key to reducing population growth is reducing poverty
    here its explained using Ikea boxes
    http://www.gapminder.org/videos/population-growth-explained-with-ikea-boxes/

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 127.

    126.HilaryJ
    Over a couple of years, there's been rapes, muggings and pet dogs have been killed by idiots drinking cans with their dogs, who hang around there when police move them away from the local shops. I've seen very anti-social behaviour, and spoke to people who have been involved in incidents.
    Haven't been around the area for a while, but still hear of it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 126.

    124.Colin S
    'We used to walk and jog around the local park and nature reserve. Not any more. It's no longer safe. It doesn't matter what time of day you go and I cannot imagine it getting any better. '

    I'm suprised by this as crimes of violence are generally falling. Have people actually been attacked there?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 125.

    87.An Over Populated Planet


    And STILL you make the same claims without ever once offering a single shred of EVIDENCE to back your claims up...


    ....


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24835822


    Fertility rates are falling the world over - as soon as the Baby Boomers die population will FALL.....

    .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 124.

    We used to walk and jog around the local park and nature reserve. Not any more. It's no longer safe. It doesn't matter what time of day you go and I cannot imagine it getting any better.
    In as much as I'd encourage exercise, I wouldn't promote anyone to endanger themselves.
    (Filled with such negativity lately.)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 123.

    One important thing that was missed out was air quality.

    Having worked in London, I can honestly say that if I lived there I would never run anywhere, you can almost taste how polluted the air is, and I'm an active person who exercises multiple times per week!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 122.

    I'm lucky, in Bristol we have lots of beautiful places to go for a walk, the Downs, Leigh Woods, Ashton Court St Werburghs Mound, Ashely Allotments & St.Andrews park is fantastic. The park near me never got used much years ago but recently some of the railings have been taken down so it feels much less isolating and is safer and more open & inviting winding paths I used it every day in the summer.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 121.

    We have quite a bit of nice green space near where we live (Plumstead). It's just sad that a small minority of local dog owners let their status dogs run riot, ruining young trees and and defecating all over it. It makes it less pleasant for getting out and kicking a ball around or jogging. Especially the part where we have to hose down our shoes/the football afterwards.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 120.

    'Another scheme highlighted was the creation of a natural play area with climbing frames, a water foundation and wetland on a disused field in the former mining town of Huthwaite in north Nottinghamshire.

    Once empty, the area is now packed with children (when the weather permits).'

    Anyone else puzzled by the picture showing the play area empty on a sunny day?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 119.

    Can someone please copy this to Wokingham Council before they build all over the last remaining green space in the name of redevelopment.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 118.

    It's not as pleasant as a walk in the countryside, but even walking to the supermarket or the cinema would help, and save on petrol costs or bus fares.

    Also, as I've said before, there can be very few people who aren't within a shortish bus ride from a nice place to walk. But you have to get out and do it, stop waiting for it to somehow come to you.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 117.

    A computer mouse, if moved frequently and kept at heart level, provides sufficient exercise for mind and body, along with an occasional glass of water.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 116.

    #95: "I would suggest that public parking/garages should be at least 1-2 miles from many offices"

    Yeah, right ... it would be just so convenient to arrive for work soaked through by heavy rain, or dripping sweat in hot summer weather. Having to share work space with an exercise-addict who cycled to work every morning but didn't shower afterwards is not one of my more pleasant memories ...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 115.

    S A F E! That's the word that EVERYONE wants to be! The sheer volume of cowardly thugs that roam the streets, parks etc. is I'm sure the main reason people are NOT to fussed about 'green areas'! Education is a nigh impossible task when it comes down to these brainless, sheep like, cowardly thugs!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 114.

    For deprived read irresponsible. I live in a densely packed area of the world and the amount of dog mess and litter just beggars belief. I would say that all of the mess is down to the local population as I haven't seen posh cars park up and throw their litter onto the area. Perhaps if people behaved more socially acceptable life would be less stressful. Open areas are a magnet for dog walkers.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 113.

    This seems very dubious to me. I live in a densely-populated part of Bristol and this means I can walk just about everywhere I want to go (including work and my child's primary school). I would imagine that if I lived in the outer suburbs or in the countryside I would be doing a lot more driving.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 112.

    95.Kingsley O

    '.. I would suggest that public parking/garages should be at least 1-2 miles from many offices. After all, most people, especially those still in the workforce spend more time at work than at home. They can get the needed exercise by walking 1-2 each day to & from their cars.'

    I'd rather drive the last mile and have time for a proper lunch break and a walk in the daylight.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 111.

    71.RCav
    'I would also say that by driving or taking public transport for only 30 minutes anyone can enjoy the UK countryside if they really wish to.'

    Not if you don't have a car and can't afford the fares. I have a car and have hills in walking distance of my home. I also do a lunchtime walk along one of Birmingham's many canals. Not all are as fortunate.

 

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