The enjoyment of walking outdoors
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: A lack of regular physical activity has become the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality today. Several physiological and psychological factors can decrease physical activity levels, such as age, sex, environment, enjoyment and an inactive lifestyle. Adopting an active lifestyle by walking or cycling can reduce the risk of mortality and cardiovascular diseases. Walking interventions have been gradually introduced and have been quite effective in increasing population levels of exercise. Outdoor environments have shown to encourage positive physical activity behaviours; however there is limited research on the enjoyment of exercise in relation to different types of outdoor environments. Recent research demonstrates that outdoor natural environments are more preferable to outdoor urban environments due to their restorative qualities. Urban environments have reported greater levels of energy expenditure, reduced mood state and increased levels of stress. Furthermore, natural outdoor environments may promote enjoyment of physical activity, increasing the likelihood of future participation. Aim: The aim of this research was to determine whether levels of enjoyment, intensity of physical activity and perceived exertion differ when walking in different outdoor environments. Findings could have been affected by participants stress level, gender and current physical activity levels, so these were also measured as potential co-variates. Method: The study implemented a repeated measures design; using twenty psychology undergraduate students (ten females and 10 males) aged 18 and above. Participants took part in two different walks (urban and rural) totalling no more than 20 minutes. The study was also counter-balanced by two groups of 10 (urban-natural, natural-urban) to account for order effects. Participants completed four self-report questionnaires; the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (LTEQ) at the start of the investigation. The Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PAES) and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale were completed twice by the participant, at the end of each walk. Participants also wore an accelerometer to account for their levels of energy expenditure. Findings: Brief walking in rural outdoor environments is more enjoyable than brief walking in urban outdoor environments (p<0.001). A main effect of environment on enjoyment was found (p<0.05), although no interactions were found in terms of gender, stress levels and LTEQ scores. No differences were found in the rural and urban conditions in terms of perceived exertion and energy expenditure. A positive significant relationship was found in higher levels of enjoyment and higher levels of perceived exertion in the rural outdoor environment (p>0.05). Conclusion: Brief walking in outdoor rural environments does promote greater levels of enjoyment as opposed to brief walking in outdoor urban environments. Enjoyment in different outdoor environments (urban, rural) is not effected by stress levels, leisure exercise scores and gender. Levels of energy expenditure and rate of perceived exertion do not differ between urban and rural outdoor environments. It is suggested that higher levels of enjoyment may be indicate higher levels of perceived exertion in rural settings. Further research is needed to understand what elements of natural environments encourage changes in levels of exertion and enjoyment. Possible future implication may be assessing enjoyment and social interaction using smaller groups and increasing the length of time they are walking, or by measuring each participant’s range of focus through an eye tracker to help determine what they may concentrate on most.
BSc (Hons) Psychology
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