The impact of interventions to promote physical activity in urban green space: a systematic review and recommendations for future research
Evidence is mounting on the association between the built environment and physical activity (PA) with a call for intervention research. A broader approach which recognizes the role of supportive environments that can make healthy choices easier is required. A systematic review was undertaken to assess the effectiveness of interventions to encourage PA in urban green space. Five databases were searched independently by two reviewers using search terms relating to ‘physical activity’, ‘urban green space’ and ‘intervention’ in July 2014. Eligibility criteria included: (i) intervention to encourage PA in urban green space which involved either a physical change to the urban green space or a PA intervention to promote use of urban green space or a combination of both; and (ii) primary outcome of PA. Of the 2405 studies identified, 12 were included. There was some evidence (4/9 studies showed positive effect) to support built environment only interventions for encouraging use and increasing PA in urban green space. There was more promising evidence (3/3 studies showed positive effect) to support PAprograms or PA programs combined with a physical change to the built environment, for increasing urban green space use and PAof users. Recommendations for future research include the need for longer term follow-up post-intervention, adequate control groups, sufficiently powered studies, and consideration of the social environment, which was identified as a significantly under-utilized resource in this area. Interventions that involve the use of PA programs combined with a physical change to the built environment are likely to have a positive effect on PA. Robust evaluations of such interventions are urgently required. The findings provide a platform to inform the design, implementation and evaluation of future urban green space and PAintervention research.