Contribution of Public Parks to Physical Activity

RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA 90407, USA.
American Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 4.55). 04/2007; 97(3):509-14. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.072447
Source: PubMed


Parks provide places for people to experience nature, engage in physical activity, and relax. We studied how residents in low-income, minority communities use public, urban neighborhood parks and how parks contribute to physical activity.
In 8 public parks, we used direct observation to document the number, gender, race/ethnicity, age group, and activity level of park users 4 times per day, 7 days per week. We also interviewed 713 park users and 605 area residents living within 2 miles of each park.
On average, over 2000 individuals were counted in each park, and about two thirds were sedentary when observed. More males than females used the parks, and males were twice as likely to be vigorously active. Interviewees identified the park as the most common place they exercised. Both park use and exercise levels of individuals were predicted by proximity of their residence to the park.
Public parks are critical resources for physical activity in minority communities. Because residential proximity is strongly associated with physical activity and park use, the number and location of parks are currently insufficient to serve local populations well.

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    • "However, it was also mentioned by the interviewees that they particularly liked these sites because they offered something different than existing activity sites, potentially indicating additional activity. Many of the interviewed users reported to have traveled 10–20 min by bicycle (traveling at 15 km/h this amounts to 2.5–5 km) to the site, which is a bit surprising as many studies indicate that most users of UGS live close by (Cohen et al., 2007; Kaczynski et al., 2008; Schipperijn et al., 2013). However, a study by Schipperijn et al. (2010b) showed that many users are willing to pass their nearest UGS to visit a preferred UGS. "
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    ABSTRACT: Increasing the use of urban green space (UGS) as well as increasing cycling could potentially help address the growing inactivity problem. Three bicycle playgrounds were designed based on a participatory process and afterwards constructed in the UGS along a cycle-route on the historic outer defence circle around the City of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Fortifications. The concept of a bicycle playground is new, and to examine how the three areas were used, and explore how users experience the areas, this study was designed as a combination of systematic observations, using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC), and short on-site interviews with ‘typical users’. Based on the structural observations and 12 short interviews it became clear that 63% of the users were active during their use. The bicycle playgrounds main users were teenagers and children, especially boys. The interviewed users were, in general, very positive about the sites; they liked the concept and thought that it offered a new type of activity possibility. Many of the interviewed users said they lived 10 to 20 minutes away (by bicycle), but there were also a number of interviewees that lived very close to one of the sites. A future study involving objective before and after measures when a new bicycle playground is build will be needed to reveal if bicycle playgrounds can provide additional activity to its users, or ‘just’ a different type of activity, in a different location.
    Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 12/2015; 14:163-169. DOI:10.1016/j.ufug.2014.09.003 · 2.11 Impact Factor
    • "They are important in cities due to the opportunities they provide for people to come into contact with nature and with each other (James et al., 2009). Urban green spaces contribute to the improvement of health and well-being (Tzoulas et al., 2007) through atmospheric pollution reduction, the facilitation of physical exercise (Cohen et al., 2007) and the promotion of mental wellness (Tyrväinen et al., 2014). Moreover, they offer recreational benefits encompassing active and passive activities (Tzoulas and James, 2010) and act as meeting places for local residents, supporting neighborhood social interactions (Kamierczak, 2013). "
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    • "Biglan, Ary, & Wagenaar, 2000). Specifically, the System of Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) tool, developed by Cohen and McKenzie (Cohen et al., 2007), was used to document the number of people observed using the park between June–October 2010 and then again between June–October 2012. Observers rated the number of people, their gender and approximate ages, and the intensity level of the activity being performed by each individual counted. "
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    ABSTRACT: Community parks have achieved recognition as a public health intervention to promote physical activity. This study evaluated changes in population-level physical activity when an undeveloped green space adjacent to transitional housing for refugees was transformed into a recreational park. A prospective, nonrandomized study design used the System of Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) to document the number and activity levels of park users over time, and to compare trends pre-and post-construction. T-tests or tests of medians (when appropriate) were used to compare pre-and post-construction changes in use of non-park and park zones for physical activity and changes in park use by age and gender. Pre-and post-comparisons of people observed using non-park zones (i.e., adjacent streets, alleys and parking lots) and park zones indicated a 38% decrease in energy expended in non-park zones and a 3-fold increase in energy expended within the park (P = 0.002). The majority of park users pre-and post-construction were children, however the proportion of adolescent males observed in vigorous activity increased from 11% to 38% (P = 0.007). Adolescent females and elderly continued to be under-represented in the park. Our findings support an association between creation of accessible outdoor spaces for recreation and improvements in physical activity. Community involvement in park design assured that features included in the park space matched the needs and desires of the communities served. Some demographic groups were still under-represented within the park, suggesting a need to develop targeted outreach strategies and programming.
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