Espoo nature exercise programme

  • Physical training
  • Well-being
  • Outdoor recreation
14.2.2022 14.36Updated: 14.2.2022 15.29


  1. Introduction
  2. Espoo – a responsible pioneer in environmental and nature matters
  3. Nature exercise in Sports and Exercise Services
  4. Topical development areas of nature exercise in Sports and Exercise Services
    4.1. Accessibility
    4.2. Implementation of neighbourhood sports sites
    4.3. Implementation of the local recreational trails programme
    4.4. Further development of outdoor recreation areas
    4.5. Development of active lifestyles project
  5. Espoo residents’ experiences and feedback on nature exercise
  6. Physical activity inspired by culture
  7. Assistance with trail selection

1. Introduction

Espoo is blue and green, which is why the focus of our services is on developing services that are closely linked to nature. Experiences of nature are equal, but achieving them on an equal footing requires comprehensive consideration of accessibility when building various nature services.

A sustainable future is created together with residents and partners through carefully considered energy and construction solutions that promote physical activity. We maintain comfortable local nature and nurture green areas. Our actions, principles and services support ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development. By respecting nature, we show that we are a responsible pioneer.

Exercise in nature increases our wellbeing comprehensively. Our awareness of its effects on health and wellbeing has increased. Outdoor recreation has a positive effect on our health as our physical activity increases. The impacts on wellbeing are more significant the more often we experience nature.

Views and ideas provided by city residents have been included in our programme, as Espoo residents give a lot of feedback about their experiences of physical activity. By listening to the residents, we can create a comfortable environment and a shared future. At the same time, we keep up with developments and the spirit of the time.

The purpose of the Espoo Nature Exercise Programme is to clarify the goals and development measures of nature sports in accordance with the Espoo Moves 2030 vision.

2. Espoo – a responsible pioneer in environmental and nature matters

In the international leadership programme for pioneering cities, Espoo is committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The goals are to be achieved by 2025.

To achieve the goals, the city together with partners is developing solutions that serve as examples of future carbon-neutral urban life. Preserving nature and promoting nature exercise support the achievement of the goals. Espoo wants to be carbon neutral in 2030.

People’s Baltic Sea

Residents, companies and associations are at the heart of the Espoo Story. The best way to achieve our goals is to work together. In this way, we can achieve the objectives of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the Finnish vision for the Baltic Sea Region and Espoo’s Baltic Sea action plan. The policy of the people’s Baltic Sea strengthens Espoo residents’ opportunities to act in the interest of the environment and people.

Health and Greenspace(external link)

An EU-funded project under the URBACT programme to develop the planning and management of the city’s blue-green infrastructure so that green spaces and recreational areas contribute to the health of the city’s residents and mitigate the adverse effects of urban surroundings. The project involves nine European cities sharing information, experiences and best practices in order to safeguard the health benefits of greenery. The City of Espoo is participating in the project 2019–2022.

The City of Espoo action plan for safeguarding the health benefits of the blue-green infrastructure to be prepared in the project will address issues such as mitigating the effects of heat waves, noise and air pollution, measures to support residents’ physical and mental wellbeing, and social interaction between residents and communities.

Promoting cycling

We are increasing the share of cycling in physical activity and mobility by creating connections with public transport. Espoo is committed to doubling the share of everyday cycling to 15% in 12 years, by 2024. The promotion work is guided by the Cycling Promotion Programme.

3. Nature exercise in Sports and Exercise Services

We want local exercise to be available to everyone – accessible and inexpensive. Espoo has the highest quality outdoor routes in the country, as well as a network of pedestrian and bicycle traffic routes between residential centres.

Outdoor recreation routes and areas

Outdoor recreation routes connect different areas of Espoo, its city centres and the Waterfront Walkway. In addition to recreational use, the routes also enable commuting, running errands and schoolchildren walking or cycling to school. The illuminated paths are intended for everyone, and there is fitness equipment along them.

Espoo Central Park is a diverse natural area that forms an ecologically important link from the sea to the Nuuksio lake highlands. It is the second largest contiguous nature area after Nuuksio and an important area for outdoor exercise and recreation.

Nuuksio National Park is located in the regions of Espoo, Vihti and Kirkkonummi. It is the largest and most important unified wilderness area in Uusimaa. Nuuksio has small lakes and ponds and includes beaches from 12 other lakes.

Sports parks and outdoor recreation centres

There are seven sports parks in Espoo – Espoonlahti, Central-Espoo, Laaksolahti, Leppävaara, Matinkylä, Otaniemi and Tapiola – as well as outdoor recreation centres in Oittaa and Puolarmaari. They are adjacent to nature areas, so visitors can move from them to fitness tracks and forest trails.

In the future, snow cover will be provided in three areas: Oittaa, Leppävaara and Puolarmaari in the Central Park. The sports parks, outdoor recreation centres, beaches, archipelago and outdoor trails feature outdoor fitness equipment. We also build artificial ice rinks and skate spots according to separate programmes.

Espoo by the water

Espoo has a large sea area, 58 kilometres of seashore and 165 islands. There are 95 lakes and dozens of ponds. The network of flowing waters is also plentiful. The water bodies and their immediate surroundings have a high recreational value.

There are 11 islands intended for outdoor recreation available to Espoo residents. The most popular recreation island is Iso Vasikkasaari, which offers versatile services and is well suited for families with children and people with reduced mobility. We maintain the ports and recreation islands. Archipelago traffic is carried out in cooperation with Helsinki. The archipelago has eight ports for scheduled traffic.

Espoo’s marinas are of high quality and serve boaters. Sports and Exercise Services manage ten marinas with a total of approximately 4,200 berths and diverse services. A boat club or clubs operate in each marina and take care of the marina security, among other things.

Other outdoor activities

The island of Tvihjälp off Westend is planned to be made available for wider outdoor activities. Our goal is also for Lilla Blindsund to be a wheelchair-accessible recreation island that is widely available to residents for recreational use. Both islands would be refreshing additions to the Waterfront Walkway.

Apart from the seven recreation islands, people can camp in the outdoor recreation areas of Oittaa, Kattilajärvi and Väransby as well as in Nuuksio National Park.

Angling and ice-fishing are not restricted in Espoo. As for the fishing methods subject to a permit, the single permit’s fishing areas cover a total 8,000 hectares. In addition to the Espoo coast, the areas are located in Kirkkonummi, around Bylandet recreation island.

Guided sports and exercise

The main target groups of guided sports and exercise are the elderly and people in need of special support. We want to serve those residents to whose health and ability to function regular exercise is vital or who do not exercise enough to maintain their health. We implement versatile nature exercise for these groups and also pilot the use of aids for them.

Nature exercise sites

Disc golf course14
Horse trail1
Fixed Orienteering Points5
Dog skijoring trail 1
Fitness stairs4
Walking route/outdoor route18
Ski trail55
Nature trail 15
Neighbourhood sports site67
Mountain bike trail2
Winter swimming area8
Camping area8
Bathing area/beach26
Recreation island12
Outdoor gym19
Sports park7


4. Topical development areas of nature exercise in Sports and Exercise Services

4.1. Accessibility

Everyone has an equal right to nature and physical activity. In order for outdoor recreation to be accessible, there must be clear guidance, good access routes, adequate lighting and places to rest. Indoor facilities serving outdoor recreation must be wheelchair accessible. Informative materials increase predictability and help in choosing an accessible route and preparing for a nature excursion.

The Espoo Waterfront Walkway received a commendation in connection with the Accessible Finland Award in 2019. From the point of view of improving accessibility, it was significant that the stairs in the Matinkylä waterfront zone were replaced by a section located in the cultural landscape.

Wheelchair accessible exercise sites include the Oittaa swimming dock and the Kuntokihara fitness track in Leppävaara. Accessibility surveys have been carried out for beaches and neighbourhood sports sites, and the information is available on the service map of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. One long-term goal is for Lilla Blindsund to be the first wheelchair-accessible recreation island in the country.

4.2. Implementation of the neighbourhood sports site programme

Neighbourhood sports sites are implemented according to a separate programme. Town planning reserves large areas where residents can freely engage in a wide range of exercise and outdoor recreation.

Examples of sites built in 2021:

  • Outdoor exercise equipment in Keski-Espoo
  • Outdoor exercise equipment in Westend
  • Kuurinniitty fitness stairs
  • Matinkylä skate spot

4.3. Implementation of the local recreational trails programme

The aim of the local recreational trails programme is to map the current state and network of recreational trails in the City of Espoo. The programme provides guidelines for the construction and renovation of outdoor routes by 2030.

The programme consists of two different components: 1) the current state for walking, running, mountain biking and cycling, skiing, horseback riding and canoeing, and 2) the connection needs of the outdoor routes, defining the main routes based on them, presenting the construction order and programme for new connections to outdoor routes.

Sites built in 2021:

  • Töllinmäki–Oittaa and Itäpellonreitti route: 

Development of the main connection of the Espoonjoki River Valley by phased implementation of the missing sections of the connection. Improving year-round connections to the Oittaa region. 

  • Malminmäki–Saarnilaakso:

The year-round use of Espoo Central Park will be promoted by implementing planned connections to the area.

4.4. The near future of the outdoor recreation areas

In 2021, a new service building was completed in the Oittaa outdoor area, the sanitary facilities of which will also be in use during the winter season. The roller skiing trail in the area will be extended and a children’s skiing ground will be built in the area. A snow covering system will be built in the Puolarmaari outdoor recreation centre. The wider development of other outdoor recreation and exercise areas is connected to the city’s other construction activities.

4.5. Development of active lifestyles project

Most of the guided outdoor activities of municipalities have been targeted at people without functional limitations who are independently mobile. There is still occasional cooperation carried out to arrange guided nature exercise for those in need of special support. The sustainable implementation of activities requires extensive cooperation, changing attitudes, information and motivation. We will pilot the organisation of outdoor recreation and nature exercise in a coordinated manner. We will create a common operating model for reaching out to people in need of special support and for encouraging them to do applied nature exercise.

5. Espoo residents’ experiences and feedback on nature exercise

Based on the feedback from residents, nature-related issues are important. We value nature, outdoor recreation routes, the maritime Espoo, the Waterfront Walkway and the extensive Central Park.

The aim is to respond to feedback within five working days and, depending on the nature of the feedback, it is reacted to as soon as possible.

Praise is received for:

  • artificial ice rinks and mountain bike routes
  • diverse and high-quality outdoor exercise facilities and their gym equipment
  • skate spots and fitness stairs. 

Skiers praise the ski trail maintenance. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic routes are also well maintained. Route signs have been added, but more are desired, especially at intersections, and their level of information should be improved.

The most critical feedback relates to waste management and the cleanliness of the areas. There are not enough benches and sanitary facilities along the outdoor routes. Moped driving on the routes and the lack of parking spaces are seen as problems.

People also want:

  • opportunities for tour skating, canoeing and ice swimming
  • guidance on fishing and boating.

Cycling has grown into an important form of exercise. The most popular routes are sometimes crowded.

  • People want wider pedestrian and bicycle traffic routes for safety reasons.
  • More city bike stations are hoped for.
  • More mountain bike routes and maps are wanted.

Espoo residents like to visit the recreation islands. For this reason, they want:

  • extension of the archipelago boat season and more firewood
  • more boat docks and rowing boat berths for the lakes.

Other notes on the feedback:

  • People want more dog parks, dog-friendly swimming places, dog skijoring trails and horseback riding trails. 

Communication in different languages is important. Comfort increases when people in nature follow to common rules and guidelines.

6. Physical activity inspired by culture

Espoo is full of interesting cultural and urban routes, which also offer people good exercise. There are several routes and sites, many of them in stunning natural landscapes. A variety of materials can be used to learn about the sites. 

Urban Espoo(external link)
Urban Espoo is a website and application full of culture and art. Get ready for an adventure in an inspiring urban environment! You can find, for example, city routes and challenges, tips for nature excursions and outdoor galleries.

Museum without walls(external link)
The museum without walls is always present and always open.  You can search for guides and routes based on content and locality, for example.

Träskända park adventure
The park adventure of Träskända is an independent tour of the 19th century manor garden and the interesting history of the manor. The points along the adventure introduce the visitor to the cultural environment, architecture and the manor life of the gentry through activities. 

7. Assistance with trail selection

Helsinki Metropolitan Area service map(external link)
On the service map, you can find the public offices of Espoo, Helsinki, Kauniainen, Vantaa and their services.

Helsinki Metropolitan Area outdoor exercise map(external link)
The outdoor exercise map is an open information channel on the condition of outdoor exercise facilities in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. At the moment, the service covers ski trails, ice skating rinks and beaches maintained by the cities.

Espoo map service(external link)
The service includes, for example, address and guide maps, town planning and soil maps, and orthophotographs. route search(external link)
Route search and nearby stops make it easier to find the right route and timetables for you – whether you are using public transport, walking or cycling.

Nature trails (including Nuuksio cycling and horseback riding routes)
There are a total of 26 nature trails in Espoo, of which the city maintains nine. These city-maintained trails are located in various parts of Espoo, and give a great overall picture of the versatility and richness of local nature.

Hometown paths / Urban walks
The urban walks are mapped walking routes that showcase the past and present of city districts, their nature and culture, public art, architecture and important characters.

From close to home to the cliffs: Espoo’s nature sites
Kotinurkilta kalliolle – Espoon luontokohteet (‘From close to home to the cliffs – Espoo’s nature sites’) is a tour guide to the nature of Espoo presenting the local environment of Espoo residents and the beauty of everyday nature. The book contains almost all of Espoo’s valuable nature sites, such as nature conservation areas, natural monuments, geological sites and old heritage landscapes.

Espoo by bike(external link)
Routes and bike tours created by Visit Espoo.

Espoo Waterfront Walkway
Forty kilometres long, the Waterfront Walkway takes you through almost a hundred different interesting sites that tell about Espoo’s nature, cultural history and building stock, as well as almost-forgotten anecdotes about coastal life in times past.

Finland Naturally Experiences(external link)
Finland Naturally Experiences is the most popular outdoor and nature tourism blog in Finland that has already presented 2,500 Finnish nature venues in pictures and words.

Citynomadi(external link) – routes for every occasion
In the natural environment, a terrain or local map is essential for guidance and route planning. The applications include the environment, circular economy, nature tourism, recreational use of nature, experiencing nature and recreation in nature.

Green Paths journey planner(external link)
While clean air, silence and greenery are beneficial to health, exposure to air pollution and noise can cause numerous health problems. This tool will help you find more pleasant and healthier walking and cycling routes. You can compare routes in terms of length, air pollution and noise levels, and choose the most suitable route for you and the situation.

“Just walking and enjoy this nice october weather.”

“Nice day for outdoor activities which ended diving into cold lake!”

“Today not morning run but morning swim! 😃 So beautiful weather, sunny, air +4 degrees, water+6. Let’s enjoy sunny weather as long we have nice warmth! 😍”

“So beautiful evening bcz we have snow” #running #runningwoman #espoonrantaraitti #snow #winter #nighttime #espooliikkuu #lenkillä #nature #natureinstagram #luonto

“Let is snow, me likes” 🐾#snow #finally #melike #wuff #loveit❤️ #espoo #espooliikkuu #dogpark #bestest