GUIDELINES & STRATEGIES – Original Article:
Forming a Global Strategy for Sporting Lifestyle Cities: A Conceptual City Framework
Christoph Szubski *
*Author’s contact: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisszubski/
Suggested citation for this article:
Szubski C: Forming a global strategy for Sporting Lifestyle Cities: A conceptual city framework. Sportify Cities – Guidelines and Strategies. Sportify Cities, 2017. Available at: https://sportifycities.com/sporting-lifestyle-cities-framework/
The potential health benefits of physical activity, sports and exercise are well established. In order to facilitate lifelong urban sporting lifestyle participation in developed and emerging large-sized cities, the provision of built environments and the multiplicity of suitable urban features for sports and exercise will have to play a more important role in public health policies worldwide. In this context, the article proposes a novel conceptual framework outlining urban attributes that are critical for the formation of potential Sporting Lifestyle Cities. Based on the conception of influential and inspiring World Cities and the city-to-city emulation notion, this multi-faceted framework also offers a long-term global expansion strategy for urban sporting lifestyle. To further boost the worldwide influence of urban sporting lifestyle the provision of supportive built environments for sports and exercise should eventually become a vital indicator for the quality of urban living by incorporating this public good into liveable cities concepts and popularized city liveability rankings.
1. Urban Sporting Lifestyle
Lifelong participation in physical activity and exercise plays a critical role in ensuring human development and enhancing the overall quality of life1. In particular, it is one of the key supportive factors in preventing and managing non-communicable diseases2,3. To attain long-lasting health benefits through regular physical activity and exercise participation, however, the provision of adequate active lifestyle-supportive built environments must be guaranteed4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11.
In numerous urban centres located in predominantly developed countries the urban planning concept of embedding health-enhancing facilities and green space for physical activity and exercise into urban settings has been established as one of the key elements of local urban health policies. Thus city parks, indoor sports facilities, outdoor amenities and trails along waterways can be identified as the key physical activity-enabling urban features across metropolitan areas.
In Singapore medium- to large-sized city parks are incorporated into the high-density, high-rise urban landscape. The parks are typically connected via running/biking tracks, the so-called ‘park connectors’, that are constructed along rivers, creeks and canals11.
It has been demonstrated that moderate-to-strenuous exercise modes and multi-functional sporting activities, in particular, are associated with enhanced cardio-vascular health, musculoskeletal strength and neuro-motor control functionality, thus resulting in the preservation of functional physical fitness, lower risk of the occurrence and/or progression of preventable chronic medical conditions and the maintenance of physical independency and mobility throughout life12,13,14,15,16,17,18. Yet despite the well-documented overall health benefits of physical activity, sports and exercise, the inclusion of lifelong sporting lifestyle into the quality of urban living conceptions has been rather insignificant. In fact, most organisations addressing this construct of city liveability do not incorporate the critical health-enhancing aspects of sporting lifestyle into city living guidelines. Besides, none of the popularized worldwide city liveability rankings includes it into their quantifiable criteria, disregarding physical activity and exercise as a vital city liveability factor altogether19,20,21. Although the annual Quality of Life city survey in the Monocle magazine – one of the key commercial magazines on urban living – occasionally indicates that physical activity options play a part in enhancing city liveability, it reveals neither the chosen indicators nor the analytical assessment procedures22.
To help advocate for the inclusion of sporting lifestyle into the quality of urban living policies and assessments, the proposed conceptual framework will therefore argue for a refocus on the structural components of physical activity, sports and exercise by laying a sustainable physical foundation for an urban sporting lifestyle global expansion (walking and biking conducted in road traffic settings and in formal clothing are not included in this urban sporting lifestyle concept). In all, this framework should be regarded as a starting point for a broader, long-term examination of the spatial integration of adequate urban features for sports and exercise into urban settings.
Given the rapidly changing socio-cultural attitudes among urbanites of all ages towards living healthier lives it is reasonable to assume that providing city residents with sufficient utilisable green space and adequate facilities for physical activity, sports and exercise could emerge as one of the key preconditions for enhanced city liveability.
In this context, this article proposes a conceptual framework outlining six key determinants for sporting lifestyle-supportive built environments and urban features. The core physical attributes could potentially serve as the sporting lifestyle formation basis for cities across the developed as well as the emerging world and help lay the groundwork for international active and sporting lifestyle policies. To achieve this, the multi-faceted framework also offers a long-term strategy for a global expansion of Sporting Lifestyle Cities through the inclusion of an extended world cities conception.
The primary objective of this following conceptual framework is to highlight the critical public health aspect of providing adequate and sufficient urban features for physical activity, sports and exercise. In order to improve the effectiveness of such urban sporting lifestyle provision and to facilitate the formation process of prospective Sporting Lifestyle Cities, six determinants – affordability, diversification, functionality, accessibility, pollution and climate – will be proposed. These key attributes outlined below could potentially serve as reference points for the provision of adequate infrastructure and urban environments for urban sporting lifestyle worldwide.
The accessibility of sports and exercise facilities has been shown to be an enabling factor for greater physical activity participation4,23,24. This may suggest that a top-down, government-initiated provision of affordable sporting infrastructure and utilisable public green space is critical to delivering a health-enhancing public good and facilitating the popularization of sporting lifestyle trends5,10,11 – particularly, the availability of publicly accessible city parks, trails and free-of-charge or reasonably priced exercise, sports and fitness amenities.
In most cities trail networks for walking, running and cycling along urban waterways – the most dominant urban feature for aerobic exercises – can be freely used. Ideally, the entry to city parks, for instance, should be free, too. Besides, free-of-charge small outdoor sporting grounds and fitness facilities could be incorporated into the most suitable parts of residential areas, thereby offering city residents basic and equally accessible options for enhancing overall physical health.
While charging health-conscious, active residents for most physical activities is a conventional urban health policy across urban centres, the scale of costly public and commercial facilities for physical activity and exercise must not become an impediment to lifelong and regular sporting lifestyle participation. The concept of utilisation charges per se is acceptable as long as the prices remain within purchasing power levels of local residents – that is, incomes, wealth concentrations, unemployment rates and costs of living among young, middle-aged and elderly city residents would have to be considered when establishing utilisation prices for non-commercial sporting lifestyle amenities.
Although privately operated facilities have grown in popularity across metropolitan areas, they mostly offer pricier options compared to the existing public facilities. In addition, in various Asian cities, in particular, the utilisation of private amenities has been limited exclusively to individuals residing in spatially segregated private condominiums. In order to ensure affordable lifelong sporting lifestyle options for all their residents, cities around the globe will therefore have to strike a balance between providing publicly-subsidised urban features for physical activity and exercise and designing urban space for habitually costlier commercial amenities11,25.
Chart 1. Utilisation prices of public facilities for selected physical activities – local senior residents in Singapore25
Given the quantifiable trends towards inequality in income and wealth within societies across the developed as well as the emerging world26,27, the affordability will remain a critical sporting lifestyle aspect that must not be underestimated. While the progressively rising purchasing power of residents living in Asian cities could possibly offset any widening sporting lifestyle affordability gap, this does not necessarily apply to cities located in some European countries, the United States of America or in large parts of South America, where higher unemployment rates and/or stagnating income levels among lower and middle class groups have become a disturbing norm26,28,29. Besides, the indebted public service sectors, such as healthcare, will eventually put more financial pressure on ageing residents, resulting in considerably limited spending power on urban sporting lifestyle options among future retirees.
In short, securing the affordability of exercise options for all city residents – that is, regardless of socio-economic status and age – will be a defining element of any prospective Sporting Lifestyle City that aims at reaching consistently high physical activity and exercise participation levels.
In recent years government policies, promotion strategies and research on active health have increasingly focussed on integrating low-intensity walking in everyday clothing into daily urban living30,31,32. Yet while such free-of-charge walking at leisurely pace could be considered a suitable physical activity for older people and people with physical disabilities who aim to preserve or enhance their cardio-vascular fitness, among healthy and younger individuals it neither necessitates any newly acquired motor skills nor significantly improves other vital physical components, such as strength, balance or flexibility. Given the predominance of this monofunctional, aerobic-centric activity in active health research and urban health campaigns, greater diversification of urban active lifestyle options may therefore be required.
In this context, greater diversity of adequate facilities within parkland areas has been associated with greater utilization levels among physically-active urban residents33,34. Hence, numerous medium- and large-sized city parks – one of the key urban features for outdoor physical activities – could perhaps undergo some structural alterations by integrating a variety of exercise-supportive amenities into designated areas within the present park landscape. The inclusion of the centralisation and compactness aspect could potentially transform such selected park segments into ‘Sporting Lifestyle Parks’. These segments could, for instance, consist of physical workout areas, small outdoor (or indoor) game courts, sports grounds as well as medium-sized outdoor (or indoor) swimming pools – depending on the local climate conditions (see the ‘Climate’ aspect in this framework). In order to increase the utilization rates of such ‘Sporting Lifestyle Parks’, their proximity to commercial areas and public transport system must be ensured. Eventually, a transformation from monostructural to multi-functional city parks would help realize the full potential of this health-enhancing urban feature, thereby altering the dominance of the monofunctional walking activity.
Another feasible diversification strategy could be the provision of outdoor gym areas containing easy-to-use fitness stations11. The variety of available fitness task options qualifies this multi-functional outdoor fitness concept to be utilised by individuals with diverse physical and health requirements. While it has recently been suggested that providing such outdoor fitness equipment in low-density urban neighbourhoods may not be effective35, for decades now many large, high-density Asian cities have been systematically incorporating this urban active lifestyle feature into their high-rise residential districts, offering their residents convenient access to various free-of-charge fitness facilities11,36,37 – cities such as Singapore, Seoul, Beijing or Shanghai, for instance, stand out in this public health effort. Such outdoor fitness zones could also be installed along trails and medium- to large-sized city parks. In this way, physically-active residents would be able to enhance their overall physical fitness by complementing their aerobic activities such as walking, running or cycling with various health-enhancing types of workout tasks that help improve strength, flexibility and balancing capabilities.
Various outdoor fitness stations are installed across city parks in Beijing.
Typical outdoor gym facilities in newly developed residential areas in Seoul37
In Singapore outdoor fitness zones are fully integrated into high-rise housing estates11,36
In the coming decades numerous large-sized cities located predominantly in the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe are projected to become geriatric societies, with city residents aged 60 and above possibly accounting for 40% of the total urban populations in Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul by 205038,39,40. For this reason, numerous prospective Sporting Lifestyle Cities will have to adjust their built environments and urban features for physical activity and exercise according to these quantifiable urban ageing trends. The aspect of providing their older physically-active residents with age-supportive amenities and infrastructure that comply with the functionality aspects of healthy ageing should therefore be embedded in future active and sporting lifestyle strategies designed for such ageing cities (e.g., see ‘Active Ageing Singapore’ – Guidelines & Strategies25).
Most importantly, recent research knowledge in orthopaedics, biomechanics, metabolism and wearable technology should also be taken into account. For instance, softer, unpaved trail surface – e.g., gravel or synthetic trails – could be constructed across prime city parks and along waterways. Recreational running on such age-suitable trails would eventually result in reduced cumulative impact on hip and knee joints through shock attenuation among middle-aged and older recreational runners41. In the long run the adoption of age-related functionality could potentially enable more city residents to pursue recreational running beyond their retirement age.
In large-sized, high-density cities with ample residential high-rise districts the multi-functionality and age-suitability of existing and planned outdoor gym areas could also be amplified. As outlined in the guidelines on ‘Active Ageing Cities’25, older residents would be given the opportunity to optimize their overall physical health benefits by choosing strength, flexibility, balance and endurance tasks according to their individual demands and abilities.
Proximity and convenient access to sports and exercise amenities are critical factors in facilitating lifelong sporting lifestyle participation42,43. To guarantee physical activity options within walking or cycling distance, standard facilities and amenities should be offered within local residential districts. For instance, smaller sporting facilities, outdoor game grounds and outdoor fitness areas could be incorporated into existing residential areas, whereas larger infrastructure for sport, physical activity and recreation could be concentrated within designated areas of urban districts while linking such compact, multi-functional sporting and exercise centres for community use via a well-connected public transport network.
In this regard, popular city parks, too, should be provided with convenient access to public transport options. This is particularly critical for large-sized, high-density cities with low car ownership rates and few medium- or large-sized parks (inevitably, in such cities only a small proportion of city residents live within short distance to parks). Hence, improving accessibility and urban mobility will be vital to boosting the sporting lifestyle participation levels among city residents. In order to accommodate physically-active, sweat-generating park visitors, however, some serious thoughts would have to be given to creating indoor/outdoor shower facilities, small security lockers and changing rooms around the central activity areas of all large city parks. That said, only cities with extremely low crime rates and absent vandalism of public or private properties will most likely consider such park features44.
Increasing the number of city parks within municipalities would logically improve accessibility too. Yet the creation of new, medium- to large-sized green space for physical activity and recreation purposes is less probable due to existing built-up areas prevailing in most established cities – except for Seoul, for instance, where the centrally located US Army Garrison in the Yongsan district will be transformed into a large-sized public parkland, almost reaching the dimension of the Central Park in Manhattan, New York City45.
In low-density urban centres located predominantly in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand large proportions of households own at least one car46,47, ensuring individualised and convenient accessibility of sporting lifestyle urban features and facilities. In addition, free car parking lots are mostly offered at community sporting and recreational facilities in such car-centric cities. In many space-limited, high-density cities across Asia and Europe, on the other hand, the higher overall costs of owning and operating a car do not make driving a financially viable transportation option for young residents and retirees, in particular48, decreasing the levels of accessibility of more distant amenities for exercise and physical activity. Given that higher incomes and/or greater wealth increase the likelihood of owning a car, sporting lifestyle options for many inhabitants of these high-density cities are largely limited to close-by amenities as a result of lower purchasing power. In order to ensure greater sporting lifestyle accessibility for larger shares of urban populations, car-independent and affordable access to key sporting facilities and to medium- to large-sized city parks should therefore be offered in high-density Asian and European cities, for instance.
The Electronic Road Pricing system (ERP) in Singapore is only one of many car-restrictive measures implemented in this space-limited Asian city48.
In the near future, the operation of driverless transportation systems across urban centres will most likely improve the sporting lifestyle accessibility in numerous metropolitan areas. Thanks to their compact urban layout, large high-density cities, in particular, are well-suited for future integration of fully autonomous multi-modal transportation networks into their urban environments. In short, this emerging, accessibility-enhancing urban transportation revolution will almost certainly become a critical element of any potential Sporting Lifestyle City strategy.
Prospective Sporting Lifestyle Cities with the ambition of designing suitable outdoor urban features for physical activity, sports and exercise will have to factor in the scale of local urban air pollution. After all, if the environmental conditions are perceived to be unsuitable or hazardous to the individual’s health, outdoor sporting lifestyle will barely emerge as a viable health-enhancing aspect of daily urban living. Given that prime endurance activities and various motor skill-enhancing outdoor sporting games rely on good urban air quality, this critical aspect will play a significant role in the Sporting Lifestyle City formation process of various polluted urban centres worldwide.
Persistently high levels of air pollution are associated with having adverse cardio-respiratory effects on individuals49,50. Particularly, the concentration levels of PM2.5, one of the key air pollutants, are critical for physically-active people due to its ability to deeply penetrate lungs51,52. PM2.5 concentrations vary widely across the globe, depending on local environmental regulations and topographical surroundings. Due to the air pollutants’ dispersion effects sprawling low-density cities located in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and in most parts of the USA are generally better positioned to maintain their PM2.5 concentrations at lower levels – the average PM2.5 values in large, low-density cities located in these countries rarely exceed 10 μg/m3 (see Chart 2).
Chart 2. Urban air quality. Annual average PM2.5 levels in selected cities53,54,55.
In large-sized, high-density European cities the PM2.5 levels mostly fluctuate between 15 and 20 μg/m3, offering fairly acceptable environmental conditions for outdoor sporting lifestyle. With 15 μg/m3 Tokyo demonstrates the lowest annual PM2.5 value of all large high-density cities across Asia, highlighting the megacity’s efforts in managing its domestic air pollution. In the other prosperous Asian cities, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul, the annual levels range between 20 and 30 μg/m3. By contrast, cities across China offer rather inhospitable environmental conditions for lifelong physical activity participation, with Shanghai and Beijing recording 52 and 85 μg/m3, respectively. With an average PM2.5 level of 122 μg/m3 Delhi, India, remains the most polluted major city in the world55. Due to the adverse health effects of PM2.5 and other air pollutants, various cities across the globe will have to address the aspect of urban air quality in their future sporting lifestyle strategies when establishing the most adequate outdoor physical activity and exercise choices for their residents.
Again, prospective Sporting Lifestyle Cities will have to offer satisfactory environmental conditions for outdoor physical activities in order to reduce the risk of health implications among their residents. The provision of urban features in larger high-density cities, in particular, will have to occur in conjunction with adopted urban anti-pollution regulations. For instance, constructing urban trails, city parks and outdoor sports facilities at a safe distance from main roads could reduce the levels of local exposure to hazardous exhaust fumes. That said, the redirection of busy traffic routes currently by-passing the prime outdoor active lifestyle amenities and the implementation of less polluting transportation technologies appear to be the more forward-looking and effective urban health policies in the near future.
Traffic on expressway along the Han River in Seoul. Various large-sized cities in Asia struggle with containing their air pollution levels at acceptable levels due to increased motorized traffic37.
In order to enhance health benefits through greater and more regular physical activity participation among city residents, the built environments and urban features for sporting lifestyle should adequately reflect the local climate patterns of a city. Although cities around the world are located in contrasting climate zones, this aspect of geographical location has been largely overlooked in active health policies. Besides, research has mainly focused on assessing world regions with four distinct seasons throughout the year, demonstrating lower physical activity participation levels during the winter periods56,57,58. To ensure regular physical activity participation all-year-round in cities enduring long, cold winter periods (in particular, across North America, Northern and Central Europe as well as North Asia), viable physical activity alternatives to running and cycling should be offered in future Sporting Lifestyle Cities strategies. Also, the ratio of available indoor-to-outdoor sporting lifestyle options should be examined in regard to seasonality factor and physical activity participation levels among local city residents.
Chart 3. Temperatures during the coldest period in selected large-sized cities59.
Numerous large-sized cities are located in the subtropical and tropical rainforest climate zones60, requiring more specific urban sporting lifestyle policies. For physically-active city residents living in such (sub-) tropical cities this non-modifiable factor – that is, high ambient temperatures and high humidity levels – creates challenging meteorological conditions by increasing the risk of hyperthermia-caused medical emergencies due to impaired responses of the cardio-respiratory system61,62. Despite being better acclimatized to hot and humid circumstances compared to non-tropical natives63, the residents living in (sub-) tropical climate zones still have to adjust their daily urban life rhythm in the light of the rather inhospitable heat and humidity levels prevailing in the daytime64. Hence, tropical natives tend to participate in outdoor exercising during the slightly more pleasant early morning and evening hours64. To help popularise a ‘Twilight Sporting Lifestyle’ extensive lighting should therefore be provided in city parks and along trails before dawn and after dusk – this could become a prospective element of Sporting Lifestyle Cities located in climate zones with all-year-round hot temperatures.
To reduce the risk of suffering hyperthermia-induced medical complications, the planning process of city parks, trail networks, small outdoor sports facilities and outdoor fitness zones should include the planting of sun- and heat protective tropical trees. Evidently, large numbers of comfortable air-conditioned indoor facilities are also required. City parks should also be better adjusted to the local climate by integrating local, tropical elements into city park designs, such as outdoor table-tennis, beach soccer, beach volleyball or beach badminton, for instance11. In this way, the (sub-) tropical cities would provide their residents with a sporting lifestyle experience that reflects the uniqueness of the cities’ geographic localities. The incorporation of this aspect into local built environments could furthermore become an essential feature of consolidating a distinctive Sporting Lifestyle City profile and brand.
Chart 4. Air temperatures and feels like temperatures during the hottest period in selected cities59,62,64 (for detailed information on feels like temperatures, see report on ‘Sweltering heat at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo’62).
Chart 5. Annual rainfall volumes in selected cities64,65
During the summer period Tokyoites are frequently exposed to extreme levels of heat. The prevalence of high temperatures and humidity levels in this region could potentially become one of the key risk factors for athletes competing at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics62.
The probability of a worldwide expansion of Sporting Lifestyle Cities will be greater if numerous cities start emulating the proposed six key attributes discussed above. In this segment it will be implied that the prospects of such global popularisation of urban sporting lifestyle are greater once the Sporting Lifestyle Cities elements get established in the most influential cities while initiating a trickle-down effect.
Cities regularly monitor and adopt new ideas and urban developments of other urban centres that are believed to set new standards of city living. This inter-city emulation process of city planning, urban design, culture, fashion and lifestyle, among others, appears more probable, if the trends originate or are popularised in the most dominant and influential cities. Such urban population centres of supremacy and influence are labelled World Cities66. In the past three decades, in particular, the scale of dominance of World Cities has been assessed in regard to various aspects of city living, ranging from political power, finance and business, prowess in global services to international connectivity, technology, culture and transportation infrastructure67,68,69,70,71,72. Overall, a number of top-tier World Cities appear to play a key role in dictating and shaping the world’s urban progress in the areas of economics, technology, infrastructure, culture and society – e.g., London, New York City, Tokyo, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seoul.
In short, prime World Cities are global role models and geographic points of reference for various aspects of modern city living, possessing the capacity to shape the view of what urban living will look like in the 21st century. The influence of top-tier World Cities is furthermore amplified by the soft power effect of such prominent large urban centres. The soft power notion has been frequently discussed in the socio-economic and geopolitical context, defining it as the ability to exercise influence over the behaviour of others and to get the others to desire something73. This aspiration to emulate social behaviour and cultural trends, on the other hand, is augmented by an innate neuroplastic capacity that is associated with imitation processes in human brain function. Particularly, the mirror neuron system appears to help human beings (and societies) replicate observed behaviours of others74,75, which could explain the occurrence of socio-cultural transmission across cities.
London, one of the prime World Cities, has greatly influenced the evolution of numerous cities around the world.
Based on these conceptions – that is, the global clout of World Cities, the soft power impact and the innate imitation processes in human beings – it could be expected that the transformation of prime World Cities into Sporting Lifestyle World Cities (formation) could eventually resonate beyond these World Cities and inspire other aspiring municipalities around the world to emulate suitable built environments and urban features for physical activity, sports and exercise. These Sporting Lifestyle World Cities could ultimately serve as benchmark and catalyst cities, setting the direction for future global expansion of physical activity and sporting lifestyle elements. During the formation process the to-be Sporting Lifestyle World Cities could foster links with each other and exchange valuable ideas. Yet at the same time they would be encouraged to compete for the urban sporting lifestyle primacy.
Generally, cities are receptive to new ideas and urban trends. And given their intrinsic nature of advancement and competitiveness, numerous municipalities will presumably be fascinated by the notion of being transformed into an urban sporting lifestyle hub (desirability factor). Hence, the expansion of the most promising and appealing sporting lifestyle strategies and urban health policies originated and consolidated in such prime urban centres of global influence and dominance could eventually be disseminated across the globe through city-to-city emulation.
Such a Sporting Lifestyle Cities expansion will proceed more rapidly if ambitious and competitive mid-tier cities, and eventually other cities, primarily focus on adopting strategies and ideas from World Cities with fairly identical city living elements – that is, cities with resemblance in urban spatial structure, climate, political system, socio-economic status and socio-cultural fabric, for instance (affinity factor). Thus the presence of geographic and cultural networks and the homogeneity of a cluster group of cities would, vertically and horizontally, amplify the transferability of sporting lifestyle elements (see Chart 6). In this way, these homogenous clusters of cities with slightly contrasting approaches would eventually evolve differently, demonstrating distinct Sporting Lifestyle Cities development paths. Ultimately, Sporting Lifestyle Cities will remain in constant flux due to their internal, socio-economic and cultural dynamics and the constant flow of ideas originating from other urban centres.
In all, the incorporation and expansion of the most suitable built environments and urban features for physical activity, sports and exercise could have a transformational impact on future-city-living and the global state of urban health.
Chart 6. Sporting Lifestyle World Cities framework
3. Sporting Lifestyle City Profiles
The proposed Sporting Lifestyle Cities framework addresses the broader context of the provision of urban features and infrastructure for physical activity, sports and exercise. In diversifying the availability of sporting lifestyle options in urban environments, city residents would eventually benefit from enhanced overall health benefits as a result of greater choice10,11. Given the documented health benefits of lifelong physical activity and the positive impact of sporting lifestyle-enabling built environments and urban features on physical activity participation, the advocated formation of prime Sporting Lifestyle World Cities and the subsequent dissemination of sporting lifestyle planning guidelines (expansion) could offer a novel approach to global active health and urban sporting lifestyle promotion.
To be clear, however, the capital-intensive provision of adequate infrastructure and the rezoning of urban and green space will largely depend on both ambitious policymakers and the return on investment objectives of local governments. Apart from the obvious impact of physically fitter city residents on improved labour productivity and reduced health service costs, for local governments the most lucrative prospect of becoming an Sporting Lifestyle City could come, for instance, in the form of business relocation and human capital, potentially attracting residents of desired qualification – that is, talent magnetism as a result of great city living attractiveness. Moreover, the conception of distinctive, recognisable Sporting Lifestyle City profiles through city branding (recognisability factor) could help attract health-conscious knowledge workers, thereby easing the financial and logistic pressure on local public health systems.
This novel framework could potentially make a transformative contribution to the international sports and exercise promotion and encourage both academics and organisations to exert more global influence over urban health policies. And since the trend towards healthy sporting lifestyle is likely to globally emerge as one of the key city themes in the 21st century, Sporting Lifestyle Cities could furthermore position themselves as reference points for quality of urban living and future-city-living. Hence, incorporating the aspects of physical activity, sports and exercise into the city liveability concepts will eventually become a critical factor in extending the topic’s reach beyond the academic circles.
On the whole, this framework should be regarded as a supportive component of a concerted effort to raise the international profile and global influence of urban sporting lifestyle. Given the complexity of such an undertaking, the chief aim should therefore be to form cross-disciplinary teams of experts with backgrounds as diverse as sports science and exercise, urban planning, gerontology, environmental physiology, social studies, technology and city marketing.
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