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Nudging residents towards outdoor exercise facilities

Edited on

31 May 2021
Read time: 2 minutes

When the covid-19 pandemic in Espoo shut down all indoor sports facilities, ­­outdoor exercise facilities got more popular than ever. We were lucky – this was only possible because the City of Espoo has invested within the years heavily in outdoor exercise facilities as a part of its wellbeing strategy.

There are abundantly of research that physical exercise and outdoor activities boost public health. Espoo has large areas of blue and green infrastructure. Outdoor gyms and other outdoor exercise facilities are spaced evenly across the city.

By arranging them next to or near to residential areas, we give a positive signal to residents that we want to promote wellbeing and social inclusion. Our outdoor exercise policy runs also smoothly in line with the City’s sustainability and social inclusion goals. All outdoor exercise facilities are executed and maintained by the City of Espoo.

Facilities that are free to use and close to home, enable physical exercise regardless of age, economic or social status. As they are easily accessed, the threshold is low to use them.

Outdoor exercise fosters physical, mental and social wellbeing

The reason for a municipality´s existence is to enable a meaningful and healthy life for all age and social groups. It is wise to offer effective, free and low-threshold services. By giving residents the chance to boost their physical, mental, and social wellbeing free of charge, the municipality lives up to its core function.

Espoo is a partner in the URBACT Health&Greenspace project. The project provides an opportunity to enhance our outdoor wellbeing actions through the upcoming Espoo´s Integrated Action Plan (IAP). There have already been talks of utilizing nature trails within the social and health care settings in collaboration with our active NGO sector. For example, patient and client meetings have been arranged outdoors instead of indoors.

In conjunction with the health responsive IAP, Espoo is preparing a Programme for Exercising in Nature, which adjusts to the needs and development ideas of Mobile Espoo 2030 vision. The programme in the making describes what we already do and how we could enhance that all age groups can enjoy exercising in nature.

Covid-19 pandemic encouraged us outdoors

Outdoors enable a safe place for exercising and socializing. During the pandemic, indoor sports facilities were closed to prevent the virus from spreading. Fortunately, people from all over the world found their way outdoors – also in Espoo. However, the pandemic highlighted that the “not so physically active” people need often support, such as a companion to come outdoors. Our next step in Espoo is to strengthen the collaboration within the city and with the NGO sector, as we want that nature and outdoor exercise facilities are used as a part of City’s health and wellbeing promotion actions.

Most of the outdoor gyms are located at greenspaces and are easy to use when passing by. This gym is located next to a beach in Kivenlahti with instructions on how to use the equipment correctly. Photo: Taru Turpeinen / City of Espoo.

Outdoor gyms are located all over Espoo. Also new gyms are planned to neighbourhoods with growing population.

By Tuija Tuormaa, a specialist on Mental Health and Substance Abuse and Anna Hakala, project assistant in URBACT Health&Greenspace at the City of Espoo.