Highland Active Health Scoping Study

Sara Bradley, Katie Matthews, Trish Gorely, Sarah-Anne Munoz

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


Aim: In 2021 the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), High Life Highland (HLH) and Sustrans Scotland formed a partnership to conduct an active health scoping exercise. The aim was to examine the feasibility of three options to increase active travel, physical activity and mental well-being among young people and families in three communities (Wick, Alness and Dingwall), comprising some of the most deprived communities in Highland. The options were increasing access to blue and green space, increasing active travel infrastructure and gamification to incentivise increasing physical activity.

Methods: Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the detrimental impact on schools and the third sector, face-to-face engagement was impossible and an online survey was distributed. When activities resumed, discussion groups were held with young people and families as well as HLH staff, third sector groups and statutory organisations. Following data analysis, a strategy was developed to take forward some of the active health ideas.

Results: Findings indicated the importance of green and blue space to respondents with top benefits being getting fresh air, exercise and keeping fit, relieving stress and boosting mental well-being . A range of barriers was reported such as closures due to COVID-19, poor path maintenance, poverty, anti-social behaviour, lack of public transport, lack of confidence and mental health difficulties. Gamification elicited a mixed response with some finding apps motivating whereas others thought they could be addictive leading to more screen time and staying inside.

Discussion: Differences were found between young survey respondents and stakeholder focus groups. The focus groups were more likely to see apps as tools to facilitate engagement with nature and provide a focus for group activities, although there were concerns over screen time. Stakeholder organisations were more likely to identify barriers and safety concerns than young survey respondents.

Conclusion: Differences over safety and access were found, but there was greater agreement on improvements with suggestions about infrastructure and services e.g. new path/cycle networks; improving pavements, crossings and road safety measures; improved public transport services. Other issues to take forward involved facilities and equipment. Building skills and confidence were identified as key to behaviour change.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes
EventScottish Physical Activity Research Connections -
Duration: 9 Nov 202211 Nov 2022
Conference number: 7th


ConferenceScottish Physical Activity Research Connections
Abbreviated titleSPARC


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