Cover: Parks and Physical Activity

Parks and Physical Activity

Why Are Some Parks Used More Than Others?

Published In: Preventive Medicine, v. 50, Suppl. 1, Jan. 2010, p. S9-S12

by Deborah Cohen, Terry Marsh, Stephanie Williamson, Kathryn Pitkin Derose, Homero Martinez-Salgado, Claude Messan Setodji, Thomas L. McKenzie

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To assess how park characteristics and demographic factors are associated with park use. METHODS: The authors studied a diverse sample of parks in a Southern California metropolitan area in 2006-2008 representing a variety of racial and ethnic communities of different socioeconomic strata. The authors surveyed 51 park directors, 4257 park users and local residents, and observed 30 parks. They explored relationships among the number of people observed, the number of park programs offered, number of organized activities observed, park size, existence of park advisory board, perceptions of safety, and population density and characteristics. RESULTS: The strongest correlates of the number of people using the park were the park size and the number of organized activities observed. Neighborhood population density, neighborhood poverty levels, perceptions of park safety, and the presence of a park advisory board were not associated with park use. CONCLUSION: While perceptions of low safety have been considered a barrier to park use, perceptions of high safety do not appear to facilitate park use. Having events at the park, including sports competitions and other attractions, appears to be the strongest correlate of park use and community-level physical activity.

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