Urban streams and physical activity promotion: toward an ecological-experiential approach

Irene Gargiulo, Marta Benages Albert, Xavier Garcia Acosta, Pere Vall Casas


Physical activity nearby urban streams is a relevant issue of public health. Ecological models offer an holistic understanding of the factors that influence this practice. However, issues related to the experiential processes behind people-place interactions remain overlooked. Through the analysis of a Barcelona metropolitan stream, this research proposes and tests an integrated ecological-experiential approach. Twenty-four in-depth map-based and go-along interviews were conducted with lay-public. Qualitative content analysis using ATLAS.ti software revealed six place-experience patterns related to users’ motivations for physical activity. Likewise, physical and social factors influential to physical activity were identified. Such factors became barriers or facilitators depending on the perception of each pattern, and the most controversial issue was safety. The diverse perception of factors can lead to conflict when the itineraries related to different experiential patterns coincide. Such finding suggests that the design of inclusive and specialized itineraries is required for physical activity promotion.