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Active populations vital for successful cities: study

By Jak Phillips    10 Jun 2015
The University of California study showed areas that foster physical activity enjoy notable economic benefits / Shutterstock.com

New research has reinforced the long-held view that cities which strive to promote physical activity gain a significant economic advantage.

The findings, presented this week at an Active Cities Summit in Bristol, show that investing in parks and green spaces, removing the barriers to active commuting and encouraging exercise in schools and offices can pay sizeable dividends.

The University of California study – which was commissioned by Nike and UK charity Sustrans – showed areas which foster physical activity enjoy economic benefits such as higher retail revenues plus lower healthcare and crime costs. The report based its results on more than 500 findings from studies in 17 nations.

"We hope this research will open the eyes of government leaders to the many important benefits of designing cities to support active living," said co-author Chad Spoon from Active Living Research at the University of California.

"This includes economic benefits of increased home value, greater retail activity, reduced healthcare costs and improved productivity.

"A city's ability to compete depends on an active population," he added. "The research on this is clear – it shows how an active city can be a low-cost, high-return investment."

The report’s recommendations for redesigning environments to promote physical activity chime with a recent opinion piece from Health Club Management editor Kate Cracknell, which called for policymakers to embrace positive changes that embed activity into our daily lives.

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