Reinterpreting Fitness Running: A topological study for healthy cities

Last changed: 03 April 2023

Fitness running plays an important role when it comes to public health, but the knowledge of the history and the planning that was required for adapting the cities to running is very poor. This makes it difficult to adapt the modern cities to increased everyday exercise. This project aimed at contributing to knowledge of the history of fitness running, its movement pattern and geography, and to develop new methods for assessing the needs and requirements for fitness running.

The project aimed to:

  1. Deepen the understanding of the (sub)urban landscape of jogging, that is: the geography, rythms and nature ideals of the jogging campaigns and its realisation in Swedish planning and materialisation in the landscape.
  2. Develop an analysis of the topology of running (i.e. its rythms, routes and routines) based on relational geography, as a way to facilitate studies of the practice of jogging and its requirements on contemporary planning.
  3. Provide tools for the assessment of the urban landscape for running, taking into concideration the cultural heritage of the older facilities and contemporary societal needs.

Whereas jogging provides a focus, knowledge provided in the project goes far beyond this phenomenon.

  1. The history of jogging provides general knowledge on the treatment of nature and landscape in planning in the period studied.
  2. The methods developed will apply for landscape studies of mobility in large.
  3. The application provides an opportunity to discuss and disseminate new theoretical conceptualisations of mobility in planning.

The project provides methodological development on how to detail nature/culture relationships (e.g. multifunctionality) in planning through a relational understanding of space. Contemporary theories on relational ontology and mobility were central to the project, particularly research on rythm, boundary objects and topology. The interdisciplinary research group holds a unique expertise within this field.

Short summary of results

The lack of everyday activity is a growing societal problem. Urban planning plays an important role in  this: we need more environments that facilitates and inspires to an active life. Jogging is one of the most common types of physical activities and Sweden has got a long going tradition of planning for running tracks. But these have, since the late 5O's, been located in parks and forests at the urban fringe. With growing cities and an increasingly inactive population there is a need to update the more than SO year old model. Within this project we have been aiming for a deeper understanding of how we through planning and design of the physical environment can create better conditions for increased wellbeing. Seminars that gathered researchers and the project's partners (the Municipalities of Halmstad, Helsingborg, Malmo and Lund) to enable mutual learning has been an important part of the project. How can we plan for urban running tracks so that these places attract more people to become active and are perceived as accessible to everyone? has been the project's main research question. It has been answered through literature studies, evaluation of existing facilities focusing on method development and through the exchange of knowledge between practitioners and researchers.

The main contribution of the project is the mutual learning between the project's partner municipalities and researchers as well as the method development especially regarding approaches to planning for physical activity in the urban landscape at different levels of scale.


Project leader

Mattias Qviström, Professor, Division of Landscape Architecture, SLU

Project participants

Mattias Kärrholm, Professor, Department of Arhitecture and Built Environment, Lund University
Read more about Mattias Kärrholm on his presentation page
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Tim Edensor, Associate Professor, Division of Geography and Environmental Management, Manchester Metropolitan University
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Alan Latham, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University College London
Read more about Alan Latham on his presentation page
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Anna Jakobsson, Senior Lecturer, Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management, SLU, +4640415423
Read more about Anna Jakobsson on her CV page
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Project time


External funding