This research was presented in Wolf, I. D., & Wohlfart, T. (2014). Walking, hiking and running in parks: A multidisciplinary assessment of health and well-being benefits. Landscape and Urban Planning, 130, 89-103.
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Background of study
Parks provide a significant opportunity for people to relax, re-energise, rejuvenate and engage in outdoor activities. Health and well-being benefits can accrue in a number of ways when visiting parks. Simply being in or viewing nature may be beneficial, and especially physical activity can contribute to visitors' health and well-being. Physical activity in parks may be targeted exercise or incidental to other activities. Promoting physical activity in parks as an important resource for health and well-being may motivate people to engage more regularly in such activities, and therefore increase park visitation, and may also increase the value that people ascribe to parks.
This research focused on visitors frequenting national park trails for walking, hiking and running. Walking/hiking is consistently the most commonly named activity undertaken in NSW national parks. Surveyed were 371 park visitors >18 years of age in Blue Mountains National Park (BMNP) and Royal National Park (RNP) including 72.2% walkers, 18.6% hikers/bushwalkers and 9.2% runners along a selection of easy, moderate, and difficult trails. Energy expenditure during the activity was estimated based on trip parameters measured by equipping visitors with GPS tracking devices.
Main insights and conclusions
Walkers spent on average 1.3 hours on the track covering a distance of 3.9 kilometres. Hikers and runners spent on average 2.1 hours and 1.2 hours, respectively, covering distances of 6.6 kilometres and 9.8 kilometres, respectively.
Visitors of the three activity groups were motivated to visit parks for a variety of reasons.
Percentage of participants stating a motivation as reason to visit the park(caption)
Participants' perceived physical effort during the activity was rated as moderate. On average, expected long-term and immediately experienced improvements, and the perceived joy gained from the activity were much higher than the perceived effort.