Understanding psychophysiological responses to walking in urban settings in Asia and Africa

C. Neale, M. Boukhechba, S. Cinderby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Global transition into healthy urban living requires active engagement by planners to understand the physical and social dimensions that underpin healthy living in urban settings. Much of the current research into the health and wellbeing benefits that can be afforded by smart planning has taken place in the Global North, with little focused attention on other parts of the world. Given the current rapid urbanization in both sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, further research is needed to understand how urbanisation is impacting these populations in order to understand what public health measures can be implemented. Our research sought to understand the psychophysiological responses of participants in Nakuru (Kenya) and Udon Thani (Thailand) when walking in urban settings within their given city. Mood measures were taken pre- and post-walk, to understand subjective psychological responses to the urban settings. Heart rate variability was measured using a smart watch to understand physiological (stress) responses throughout walks in the urban settings. Our results show beneficial effects of nature within urban settings on heart rate variability, suggesting lower stress responses in these areas. The subjective responses did not show the expected improvements in mood across both locations as a result of walking generally, which we discuss in relation to geographical and/or potential social differences in these locations compared against studies that have been conducted largely in the Global North. The results of this study are useful in understanding the role of urban planning for improved public health in both African and Asian settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101973
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Early online date3 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


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