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Survey to discover barriers to active lifestyles


North Shore City Council, Harbour Sport, Auckland University Of Technology And Sport And Recreation New Zealand

Survey sets out to discover barriers to active lifestyles March 24, 2005

Research aimed at discovering how to encourage more North Shore City residents to lead active lives will get under way next month with a telephone survey and on-site interviews at a range of city facilities.

A representative selection of 2000 residents will be called and asked to participate in a detailed telephone survey about their physical activity habits including walking and cycling and what local leisure and sporting facilities they use and why.

A separate survey will also take place where researchers will ask questions of people using various facilities around the city including parks, gyms, leisure centres, beaches, walkways and sports centres for about five minutes about their motivations for using that facility.

The surveys are part of a three year study being carried out by North Shore City Council, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and Harbour Sport in partnership with Sport and Recreation New Zealand, (SPARC) which has granted $327,000 in funding.

A key aim is to examine how much the environment in which people live and the location of facilities affects community levels of physical activity.

North Shore City Council's community liaison manager, Lisa Tocker, says that the council wants to understand better what role it can play in helping encourage people to lead active and healthy lives.

"We're trying to explore what encourages people to go for a walk along our beaches, walk to the shops instead of driving or even get involved in regular sporting activities," she says. "We can then use the information to work on making the city more 'activity-friendly'."

The study's project manager, AUT senior research fellow Nick Garrett, says the researchers will be asking people for information on where they live and how far they have traveled. This will help in understanding who is using local facilities and what effect their location has on how they are used and by whom.

The study will also take into account the quality of footpaths, lighting, scenery and impediments to activity such as graffiti and crime rates, with areas given a 'walkability' rating.

"We hope people will co-operate because all the information will remain confidential and will just be used for the purposes of this research. The idea is to find out any barriers including distance to, or knowledge of, facilities that prevents people being active," he says. "Once we have finished the survey we will match up perceptions with reality. In some cases people may not be aware that they do in fact have good access to facilities."

Mr Garrett and his research assistants have already completed interviews with focus groups, which have shown that walking is a popular local activity but that safety worries are a big barrier to getting more people cycling. A number of environmental barriers include lack of information and promotion of facilities and the design of the transport network. On the positive side, the attractiveness of the city's natural environment and access to beaches is a big motivating factor for people to be active.

Debbie Curgenven, a senior advisor for SPARC, says that New Zealanders are becoming less physically active and the North Shore research is aimed at helping cities find new ways to make it easier for people to exercise in a way that suits them.

General Manager for Harbour Sport, Danny O'Donnell, says one of the other goals of the study is to develop a local directory identifying the location of sport and recreation sites and facilities in the city, using the council's geographical information system and website. This could then be used as a model for other cities to follow.

Parts of the research will also be published as part of two PhDs.

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