Racial-ethnic Variation in Park Use and Physical Activity in the City of Los Angeles

Published in: Journal of Urban Health, 2015

Posted on RAND.org on November 20, 2015

by Kathryn Pitkin Derose, Bing Han, Stephanie Williamson, Deborah Cohen

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Racial-ethnic disparities in physical activity present important challenges to population health. Public parks provide access to free or low-cost physical activity opportunities, but it is unclear to what extent parks are utilized by various race-ethnic groups in diverse urban settings. Here, we examine racial ethnic differences in park use and physical activity among adult residents (n = 7506) living within 1 mi of 50 parks in the city of Los Angeles. In multivariate analyses, we find few differences among race-ethnic groups in terms of their frequency of having visited the park in the past 7 days; however, we find numerous differences in how the groups used the park and in their levels of physical activity: Blacks and English-speaking Latinos were less likely than whites to report being physically active, exercising in the park, and exercising outside the park; Spanish-speaking Latinos were equally likely as whites to report exercising in park but less likely to report exercising outside the park and more likely to report using the parks for social interactions; Asians/Pacific Islanders (PI)/others were more likely than whites to report visiting the park in the past 7 days and using the parks for social interactions. Urban parks appear to be an important resource for physical activity and socialization, in particular among Spanish-speaking Latino and Asians/PI groups. Additional efforts may be needed for other racial-ethnic minorities to experience the same benefits.

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