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An examination of the bio-psychological benefits of physical activity in parks and urban green spaces : a mixed-method approach

Goodwin, D M (2012) An examination of the bio-psychological benefits of physical activity in parks and urban green spaces : a mixed-method approach. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

As natural environments have been identified as places for mental restoration and social development there is the potential to address a number of bio-psychosocial health inequalities by encouraging urban park use. The current research explores the link between people and nature within the urban context of Liverpool across 3 phases of research. The reconnaissance phase explored health inequalities, physical activity levels and park access in Liverpool. Analysis showed that Liverpool is one of the most socially and economically deprived areas within England, with less than 70% of the survey population not meeting recommended physical activity levels. Although Liverpool has an abundance of parks and urban green spaces, the high health inequalities and lack of physical activity correlation with environment features suggests residents might not access parks and urban green spaces for health benefits. The exploratory study adopted a multi-method approach to investigate bio-psychosocial responses to urban city and park environments. Using repeated measures, 18 participants walked on a treadmill for 20 minutes whilst viewing and listening to either a Liverpool urban park or city centre scene. A two-way ANOVA was conducted to compare means between data collection time points within each condition for heart rate and blood pressure. Analysis for mean arterial pressure found a significant reduction for the park condition post physical activity [F(2,18) 6.83, p=.02] with the same effect on systolic blood . pressure [F(2, 18)=8.61, p=.OO] in comparison to the city scene. Semi-structured interviews conducted after testing found that cultural and social experiences influenced how participants interact with the urban environment. In particular, opportunities to access parks and natural environments during childhood was attributed to a lifespan connection. Participants reported psychological benefits of stress reduction and attention restoration and social benefits including providing a place for family and friend interaction in a park setting. Social barriers included fear from crime and harassment from teenagers. While the city was associated with traffic, congestion and noise that could evoke negative emotions, the history and diversity of Liverpool aroused pride and enjoyment that could also promote psychosocial benefits. The intervention study adopted ethnographic principles to explore cultural and individual beliefs of a group of eleven teenagers engaged in a park based physical activity programme. Observations during the programme indicated that the practitioner's role and skill base was paramount to park and activity engagement. Changes to participants across the programme impacted negatively on group dynamics, with external pressures from family and friends contributing to low attendance rates, poor time keeping and low concentration during activities. The social intervention highlighted the need to fully engage participants in the planning process and provide an agreed structure and policy for behaviour. The research highlighted a number of organisational, cultural and social issues that need to be tackled before benefits from green spaces can be fully realised. Overall research findings suggest that potential bio-psychosocial benefits of physical activity in parks and urban green spaces may be influenced by complex social issues surrounding values, culture and tradition. Further investigation into the interrelationships between neighbourhood residents, parks and urban green spaces, activities of users, and potential restorative effects could provide beneficial insights for policy makers and practitioners who would look to use these spaces for bio-psychosocial wellbeing.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC1200 Sports Medicine
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2017 10:35
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2017 10:35
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6161

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