Problem: What motivates us to be physically active? Can a built environment promote or hinder us from exercising? Urban planners and policymakers need a grounded understanding of what type of environment inspires residents to get moving and boosts their wellbeing.
Local and national policies and facilities can actually promote healthy lifestyles among residents, including vulnerable groups. But the relationship between the built environment and human wellbeing is difficult to measure.
Solution: Moving Denmark: A National Study on How and Why We Move is run by researchers from the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at SDU. They conducted a nationwide health survey in several stages to collect and analyze data on the behavior and motivation of 163.000 Danes.
As a part of the project, a mobility survey that investigates residents’ walking habits and use of existing recreational facilities is done with Maptionnaire. 98 Danish municipalities have already received detailed reports of this health survey for their residents. Now, it’s time to turn these recommendations into practice.
Nationwide Health and Mobility Survey
The “Moving Denmark — motivation and opportunities” (Danmark i Bevægelse – motiver og muligheder) project studies all kinds of movement habits of adults — anything from playing golf to doing laundry and gardening.
What’s more, researchers inquire into residents’ experiences of local sports and wellbeing infrastructure: for example, whether they cycle to work, which local routes they use for strolling, and how often they use local fitness facilities. The study is especially interested in motivations and movement opportunities, and how they are influenced by lifestyle and exercising habits.
Moving Denmark is the first health survey of such a scale and depth in Denmark, perhaps even worldwide. In Denmark and many other countries, national health surveys are done every 3-4 years but they only assess risk factors and rarely look at motivations to exercise and how existing infrastructure influences well-being habits.
At the same time, there are individual in-depth studies that survey no more than 10.000 people across the whole population. Moving Denmark combines the comprehensiveness of these studies with the nationwide scope: its first survey was distributed to almost 10% of the population across 98 municipalities.
The Moving Denmark project surveyed residents from age 15 onwards, with the oldest participant being 104 years old. The next initiative could be to run a similar study on children’s physical activity and their motivations and opportunities for exercising.
Another ambitious plan is to repeat this nationwide survey every 4-5 years! What’s more, the Moving Denmark project raised interest from other countries — hopefully, they would like to replicate such a study into national health habits and infrastructure usage.
Many researchers and policymakers have used Maptionnaire to analyze health geography, mobility preferences, and relationship with the built environments, as well as conduct community needs assessment. Discover more capabilities of the PPGIS method that is at the core of Maptionnaire.
Evaluating Mobility with Maptionnaire Map-Based Surveys
At the first stage of the Moving Denmark project in the autumn of 2020, a nationwide general survey was circulated to 400,000 Danes through the national digital inbox. It acquired great response rates: 40%, that is 163000 respondents, have answered the survey. Some of the respondents agreed to partake in further longitudinal and cross-sectional studies.
In the next stage in 2021, these respondents were invited for in-depth interviews and surveys. Two surveys that were made with Maptionnaire were sent to a sample group of 8000 residents each and achieved around a 23% response rate, which is in line with other PPGIS surveys.
Apart from the data collected with these questionnaires, the project also has access to existing health statistics and other datasets, such as a database of sports facilities in each municipality.
For these in-depth studies, it was not just enough to ask questions about moving habits. Researchers required geolocated data of residents’ experiences that could be compatible with other datasets. That’s why they turned to Maptionnaire and its map-based surveys.
As walking is the most favorite leisure activity for Danes, it was only natural to study in-depth their walking habits. The survey made with Maptionnaire explored where residents liked to walk and how distant these places are from their homes and workplaces. Participants could draw their routes and then pinpoint on a map which places on the route were good and which they disliked.
More specifically, we want to know which facilities and environments they know and use, for which activities, and what motivates them to use those facilities and environments.
Jasper Schipperijn, Professor at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, SDU
The other survey made with Maptionnaire questioned whether residents are aware of and use the nearest fitness facilities. In a map-based survey, participants marked where they lived and worked or studied and where they exercised. Interestingly, the results showed that 60% of respondents don’t use their closest facilities, and many are not even aware of their existence.
Maptionnaire was also used for analyzing walking habits in Helsinki.
Respondents were asked to mark their routes and mark places that needed improvement, such as reducing car-traffic and improving crosswalk safety.
Tip: Balancing Data Specificity and Length for Nationwide Surveys
The key challenge in designing these follow-up surveys was striking a balance between data specificity and survey length. While shorter and simpler questionnaires would give better response rates, the outcome data won’t be detailed enough for further analysis.
What’s more, data from a nationwide survey is challenging to analyze and aggregate because so many answers will depend on the context (for example, cities of various sizes and the countryside). The survey should either accommodate for these variations or overcome them by looking at the problem on a bigger scale. In the case of Moving Denmark, 98 municipalities were clustered in 10 types, which made data within the type comparable to each other.
Besides, Jens recommends running a pilot sample before distributing the questionnaire to a target group. One might then make a few adjustments that will drastically improve the survey experience for participants and output data for researchers. Here are more tips on survey design for getting better data and response rates.
It’s a steep learning curve because it’s a completely different way of doing surveys.
Jens Høyer-Kruse, Assistant Professor at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, SDU
The outcome of these surveys showed that building more sports facilities is not always a viable solution for increasing physical activity among residents. Administrators should also invest more into raising awareness about the existing opportunities for exercise.