Towards More Physical Activity in Cities

A Report for WHO/Europe

Gehl Institute is pleased to announce the publication of “Towards More Physical Activity in Cities,” a report developed in partnership with the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe). 
We know that moderate physical activity can go a long way in minimizing the risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some cancer. What role can the built environment play in creating opportunities for more people to engage in physically active lifestyles, thereby promoting health and well-being?
“Towards More Physical Activity in Cities” lays out the health issues facing European cities today, outlines the benefits of “people-centered planning principles,” and offers case studies in Barcelona, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Ljubljana, and Moscow. The report shows how common planning and design principles can be applied in a range of contexts for public benefit. 
The report focuses on Europe, but the challenges–and opportunities–are shared by cities around the world. Globally, over one third of adults don’t meet recommended physical activity levels, and this has a huge impact on health outcomes. As report author Louise Vogel Kielgast of Gehl says, “It’s our hope that all cities–no matter what specific challenges they may face–will find inspiration in this booklet on how to make public space the driver for change. A change that will encourage many more people to be physically active.”
Additionally, the report demonstrates how designing for physical activity offers far-reaching benefits beyond public health. When activities such as walking, biking, and taking public transit are convenient and flexible, cities can experience higher levels of safety, social cohesion, economic vibrancy, environmental quality, accessibility, and equity. 
We hope that local leaders working in Europe and elsewhere can use the principles outlined in “Towards More Physical Activity in Cities” to enhance the built environment, making cities that better serve the needs of all people and offer more opportunities for healthy living.