Gender Disparities in Park Use and Physical Activity Among Residents of High-Poverty Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

Published in: Women's Health Issues Volume 28, Issue 1 (January-February 2018), Pages 6-13. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2017.11.003

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

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Physical inactivity is more prevalent among women than men and is related to poor health outcomes. Neighborhood parks constitute an important resource for physical activity (PA), however, previous studies of park users have found fewer women being physically active.


We conducted a hierarchical mixed-effect regression analysis of the independent associations between gender and park use and PA among a population-based sample in high-poverty neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Data sources included 1) structured interviews with adults ([greater than or equal to] 18 years of age) in randomly selected households within 1 mile of study parks (n = 2,973), 2) systematic observations of study parks (n = 48), and 3) neighborhood characteristics from the 2010 U.S. Census.


After controlling for race/ethnicity, education, body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or greater, health status, proximity to park, having children under the age of 18, perceived park safety, estimated screen time, and park- and neighborhood-level variables, statistically significant differences were found between women and men on all outcomes. Compared with men, women reported fewer park visits in the past week (-0.28 times/week; p < .001) and shorter durations of a typical park visit (-11.11 min/visit; p < .001). Women were also less likely than men to report levels of PA that meet national guidelines ([greater than or equal to] 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous PA per week; risk difference = -0.06; p < .01) or to exercise in the park (risk difference = -0.13; p < .001) or elsewhere (risk difference = -0.13; p < .001).


Women living in high-poverty neighborhoods use parks less for PA than men. Improved park-level design, programming, and other policy interventions may be needed to mitigate disparities in park use and PA for all.

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