Physical activity is important for health and many people would benefit from being more active. However, this can be difficult to achieve in practice. Local authorities can play a part by making sure neighbourhoods are built to encourage more active lifestyles.
Designing and planning neighbourhoods that provide access to usable outdoor space seems like a promising way of improving health, but it is not clear how well this works. New homes are being built in large numbers in many parts of the country, which could allow the effects of new neighbourhoods on physical activity and health to be studied.
An ideal future research project in this area would study a group of people before and after they move home, to compare changes in physical activity and health and wellbeing, and include a control group who did not move home. However, a complex study like this would last for several years and would also be costly.
Therefore, a small scale study called Relocation to New Environments (RENEW) was carried out to build the foundations for future work.
The research found most of the people interviewed wanted to live somewhere close to a park, countryside or other green space. However, people had different preferences about the sort of neighbourhood they wanted to live in, which often depended on their stage of life. Interviews with housing professionals also provided useful information about working together more effectively to improve the research — for example about how to engage a wider range of people, both homeowners and tenants.
The research has provided the foundations to enable more effective future research in this area. This is important in helping to create healthier neighbourhoods and communities, enable residents to be active in these, improve health and reduce the burden on health and social services.