Natural Environments and Childhood Experiences Promoting Physical Activity, Examining the Mediational Effects of Feelings about Nature and Social Networks
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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The importance of natural environments (NEs) for physical activity (PA) has been studied extensively. However, there is scant evidence to explain the motivational processes underlying the NE-PA relation. The aim of this study was to investigate the NE-PA relation using an ecological framework, focusing on perception of NEs, childhood experiences and possible intra- and inter-individual mediators. Data were retrieved from a cross-sectional survey among 2168 adults from all over Norway. In addition, the coverage of NEs by municipalities was retrieved from national registers. Logistic regression showed that, unlike the self-reported proximity to NEs, higher ratings of perceived supportiveness of NEs for PA predicted participation in NE-based PA for at least 60 min/week or 150 min/week, before and after controlling for socio-demographic characteristics. Reporting frequent experiences in nature during childhood was also an important predictor of higher levels of NE-based PA. Furthermore, a mediational analysis showed that the effect of both predictors was mediated by “feelings about nature” and “social networks”. These findings indicate that to encourage the use of local NE for PA, not only should environmental perceptions be taken into account, positive feelings towards nature alongside opportunities to share activity in nature with others should also be promoted.