Detecting informal green, blue, and street physical activity spaces in the city using geotagged sports-related Twitter tweets

Charlotte van der Lijn*, Emil Ehnström, Sonja Koivisto, Petteri Muukkonen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Finland's natural physical environment and climate support a wide variety of informal outdoor sports, thereby motivating the population to do physical exercise in scenic environments. The vast majority of Finns enjoys outdoor recreational activities, and could thus be encouraged to post accounts of their year-round activities on social media. Our aim was to find out in what kind of areas and spaces, spatially, users are tweeting about sporting activities.

We use geotagged Twitter tweets filtering for 16 sporting activity keywords in both English and Finnish. The case study was conducted in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland, with an emphasis on cross-country skiing as a sports activity when there is snow. In a secondary analysis we concentrated on the sports people were practicing in these locations when there was no snow. The location spaces are split in to three land cover types: green, blue, and street spaces.

We found that approximately half of the 150 skiing-related tweets were geotagged in green spaces, and half in street spaces. This finding related to street space was attributable to a spatial scale error: when we checked the results manually we noticed that they referenced the sporting location in the green space. Hence, then over 90% of the 745 non-ski-related tweets were geotagged in a street space.

We conclude that Twitter is a beneficial tool for detecting spaces used for informal physical activity. A shortcoming in current Finnish national sporting policies is that spaces for informal physical activity are not explicitly mentioned- we use the term informal with reference both to the space and to the sporting activity, whereby public spaces are used for physical activity. This new knowledge of sporting locations will help city planners and sports planners to improve informal sports facilities, which in turn will promote healthy exercise in cities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1125343
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Sociology
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2023


  • Geotag
  • Informal sports
  • Physical activity
  • Twitter
  • Urban planning
  • Wellbeing


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