How was your walk?

Posted on April 25, 2023

Are you looking for an exciting and informative new way to explore your local nature reserves? A team of researchers from the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology has just the thing for you. By using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), they are modelling the expected energy someone would expend while travelling along a trail, time to finish a trail, and distance per trail, for the 19 nature reserves in the City of Tshwane.

Currently, none of the 19 nature reserves located in the City of Tshwane have maps that assign a difficulty level to their trails. This limits the ways in which the public can use these green spaces, as it is difficult to determine the energy needed to walk a certain path or trail without a smartwatch. That's where this research comes in - by applying various algorithms that include the Modified Hiker function, Epstein's function, and Pandolf's metabolic rate function to model energy expenditure, average time, and distance per trail, users can better plan their walks, runs, or hikes in these nature reserves. Then, the team applies a grading system based on factors like difficulty, time spent, and trail gradient. These results are verified through fieldwork using Garmin smartwatches and a Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) survey. The team has also partnered with Garmin Health and Fitrockr in collecting and analysing the data.

Ultimately, the team aims to provide maps and infographics for each nature park and the trails within them, listing trail distance, average time needed, average energy expenditure, and trail difficulty. These maps will be available in hard copy at the reserves and online via a dynamic web map accessible to anyone. The study contributes to better management and decision support for the green spaces of the City of Tshwane. By providing more information to the public, this project also makes the city more sustainable and accessible to its citizens, aligning with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, which aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

So, if you want to get involved in this exciting project, you can complete their survey every time you go for a walk, hike, or run in any of the city's nature reserves. You can also volunteer to share your exercise data with them automatically if you own a Garmin smartwatch (read more here).  The first 100 qualifying users who share their data will receive a 20% discount code for a Garmin Instinct® 2/2S device (made possible by the support of Garmin Health). By doing so, you can contribute to better management and decision support for the green spaces of the City of Tshwane, in addition to a more informed public. To find out more about this project please visit the project page.

The project has been passed by the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences Ethics Board (ethics number NAS160/2021); all answers will be dealt with confidentially and according to the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) (Act No. 4 of 2013).

The project would not be possible without received from the University of Pretoria via its Research and Development program. The support of the City of Tshwane in providing access to its nature reserves is further gratefully acknowledged, as is the support of Garmin, Garmin Health, and Fitrockr in supporting the project.

- Author Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology

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