Healthy living tool

Staying active and being healthy is a good thing we are told. So, what can designers do to encourage active healthy living? And does it go beyond the level of the built environment? How can we encourage people to venture out of their homes and engage in “healing” activity? Two researchers have devised a multidisciplinary healthy living tool to help.

The researchers looked at many theories and design practices to find potential building design that supports healthy behaviour and reduces stress. From this work they devised a multidisciplinary tool to guide design decision for shared spaces. The ultimate aim was to encourage people to engage physically, socially and psychologically in different built environment settings.

Level footpaths, seating, and shade create an attractive and inclusive place to walk and sit.

The recent pandemic tells us to take another look at how we maintain (or not) healthy minds and bodies.

A wide tree-lined boulevard with seating and level footpath.

The research paper describes the methods they used for developing the tool for inclusive self-directed healthy behaviours. A matrix of theories was created from urban planning, biophilia, active living and social engagement design. A list of criteria was generated from the research to create clear definitions using a rating system.

Although the tool continues to be modified, the article describes an interesting multidisciplinary approach to design for human wellbeing. The process of discussion on design features takes thinking another step forward. The authors found that the dialogue between individuals with different experiences facilitated a blending of knowledge for a holistic, inclusive approach to design.

The title of the article is, Evaluating design features to support inclusive, self-directed, and active healthy living behaviours.

From the abstract

Active healthy living design has typically focused on urban and community environments to support physical activity. This article looks at an expanded definition of active healthy living opportunities at building level design for various groups. We engaged with a diversity of people through a form of inclusive design that encourages individuals to explore areas of shared spaces or get outside of personal environments and buildings for self-directed, restorative activity.

The objective is to promote features that support health and wellbeing. We propose a multidisciplinary tool to facilitate decisions around creating shared spaces in different settings to encourage active behaviour.

Theories and design practices were examined for potential applications to building-centred design that supports healthy behaviour, reduces environment stress. We included the Biophilic Healing Index that helps encourage healthy behaviours.

A rating scale was then associated with criteria representing evidence-based guidelines, and capable of being fitted for use as a teaching-learning and discussion aid. An overview of data from demonstration of the tool is presented, along with feedback on proposed improvements and how these might impact professional practice.

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