Posted on Nov 18, 2014, 6 a.m.
People who live close to the coast are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those who live inland.
Recent findings have shown that people living near to the coast are healthier than those living inland and the results of a study carried out in England may help to explain why. Dr Matthew White and colleagues at the University of Exeter Medical School analysed data from over 180,000 participants. Results showed that people who live close to the coast are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those who live inland, although visiting the coast, rather than just living near it, appeared to be crucial for stimulating physical activity. However, when the researchers broke down the national pattern by region they found that this effect was present in the northwest and southwest of the country but not in any of the east coast regions. "It's clear that our coastal paths and beaches provide a wonderful resource for encouraging and enabling physical activity. Participants reported a number of activities from simply walking to more obvious exercise such as swimming or running. However, we're unsure why we're only seeing these effects in western regions of the country. Of course, people in the east also exercise but it doesn't seem to be so connected to coastal activities,” said Dr White. Study co-author Dr Ben Wheeler concluded: “Whilst plenty of questions remain unanswered, our research suggests that government policy needs to ensure these natural spaces are protected and responsibly promoted." This study is the largest of its kind and the first to be conducted in Europe. The findings support those from smaller-scale studies conducted in Australia and New Zealand.
White MP, Wheeler BW, Herbert S, Alcock I, Depledge MH. Coastal proximity and physical activity: Is the coast an under-appreciated public health resource? Prev Med. 2014, October 2. [Epub ahead of print]