Pedestrians willing to ditch sidewalks for obstacle courses

Anthony Kaczmarek 5 minutes
Pedestrian sidewalk
Walking on a sidewalk is only considered light physical activity that does not affect the heart rate.

Walk on a sidewalkon a Monday winter morning, in the rain, to go to work… It didn’t nothing fun or motivating, given the relative inactivity this entails. This somewhat bleak picture no doubt explains the results of this fantastic English surveyfrom the University of Cambridge, published in the journal Landscape research.

If the urban landscape were significantly changed, with for example obstacle courses, up to 78% of pedestrians would prefer to follow this route rather than taking a classic and relatively boring pavement. What should one imagine being able to do get millions back into the sportso a majority of the population achieves recommended physical activity targets.

Choose a “healthy route”

Exercising “on the go” is key to improving body balance and bone density. A simple walk on a sidewalk is not enough to achieve these goals (heart rate is also slightly affected) unless the walker starts bouncing. If they had the choice, up to 78% of adults would choose “fun” itineraries if these were well designedexplains the study. This is called a “healthy route” : if walking is a healthy route compared to public transport, so is choosing an obstacle course compared to simply walking on a pavement.

“When millions of people use these cityscapes every day, these differences can have a major positive impact on public health“, explains Anna Boldina, lead author of the study. minor changes in the cityscape: springboards, high steps, balancing beams, wooden beams with handrails. If the beam appears to be less uniform (14% of adults would choose it compared to the classic pavement), the steps are the most popular (78% of adults would give up the conventional pavement to choose them).

So why choose a route that is much more difficult than the classic pavement? Several reasons are mentioned by the study. Primarily, routes with obstacles that act as shortcuts are naturally the most attractive. Or else, course design itself plays a huge role, especially when it is peppered with flower beds, signage and adequate lighting. Finally, The sight of other people using the route encourages 40% of respondents to do the same. The choice also develops according to age and appetite for sport. The youngest will especially have a tendency to venture onto the beam, the oldest a little less…

“The Theory of Joy”

This explains the study these results are part of the “pleasure theory”. It is a strategy that physical activity is made more exciting. The choice architecture is further constructed so that good choices are made easier and less beneficial choices are made more difficult.

Adding a wide range of exercises to our few daily minutes of walking would improve our cardiovascular health. The WHO also recommends at least 150 minutes of “moderate” activity or 75 minutes of “vigorous” activity per weekincluding activities to improve bone density, muscle and flexibility.

The researchers hope soon carry out real experiments in practice in the field and continue to present their findings to policy makers.


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