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Recreational Physical Activity in Natural Environments and Implications for Health

Key Message

The study estimated that more than eight million adults in England engage in green exercise each week, resulting in over 1.3 billion green exercise visits a year.


White, MP et al. (2016). Recreational physical activity in natural environments and implications for health: A population based cross-sectional study in England. Preventive Medicine. In Press.


Building on evidence that natural environments (e.g. parks, woodlands, beaches) are key locations for physical activity, we estimated the total annual amount of adult recreational physical activity in England's natural environments, and assessed implications for population health.



  • A considerable amount of physical activity takes place in natural environments.
  • We estimate that over 8 million English adults engage in such activity per week.
  • Considerable public health gains are linked with this level of physical activity.
  • Natural environments should be protected and managed for health promotion.

Approximately 8.23 million (95% CIs: 7.93, 8.54) adults (19.5% of the population) made at least one ‘active visit’ (i.e. ≥ 30 min, ≥ 3 METs) to natural environments in the previous week, resulting in 1.23 billion (1.14, 1.32) ‘active visits’ annually. An estimated 3.20 million (3.05, 3.35) of these also reported meeting recommended physical activity guidelines (i.e. ≥ 5 × 30 min a week) fully, or in part, through such visits. Active visits by this group were associated with an estimated 109,164 (101,736, 116,592) Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) annually. Assuming the social value of a QALY to be £20,000, the annual value of these visits was approximately £2.18 billion (£2.03, £2.33). Results for walking were replicated using WHO's Health Economic Assessment Tool.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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