How to design activating healthcare buildings?

Physical activity and reduction of sedentary behaviour are key to a healthy life and increasingly acknowledged to be affected by the built environment. On a building scale, this impact has hardly been studied so far. Therefore, the project aims to identify how healthcare buildings, especially hospitals, can be designed to actively mobilise patients and as such contribute to their recovery.

As one’s experience of being physically active does not always coincide with one’s actual activity level, the project will combine qualitative and quantitative methods to gain insight into what patients experience as mobilising and motivating and what actually mobilises them. Based on this insight, the project will develop and test strategies to (re)design more activating healthcare buildings.

Obtaining an in-depth understanding of how healthcare buildings affect patient mobilisation will extend the existing research field of physical activity -now mostly considered on an urban scale with insights on a building scale. Moreover, it will extend studies on (early) patient mobilisation, often focused on clinical outcomes, with a more holistic view on the impact of the built environment, which architects need to design. Developing an approach to (re)design healthcare buildings that improve patient mobilisation holds the potential to actively contribute to patient recovery, resulting in shorter hospital stays and important health benefits afterwards.

This research is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), and conducted by Margo Annemans under supervision of Ann Heylighen (Research[x]Design) and Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij (UGent, Department of Movement and Sports Sciences).

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