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The City of Los Angeles has made a significant investment in its public parks and is committed to improving them. This report systematically measures what activities occurred in twelve public neighborhood parks as well as two skate parks and two senior citizens centers. Documented here are who uses the park, and what proportion of the local population is actually served by the park. Data came from surveys of 1,038 park users, surveys of 838 households within a 2-mile radius from each park, and from systematic observations of all park areas four times a day, seven days a week. Park users and residents were asked about their physical activity and their view of the local park. Residential proximity to parks turned out to be a critical determinant of park use and leisure exercise. Most park users (81%) live within one mile of parks, and only 19 percent live more than one mile away. Males use parks more than females; children and teens use parks more than adults and seniors. Most people in the parks are sedentary — the most common activity for park users is sitting. Nevertheless, most have engaged in light or moderate physical activity just to get there, since most park users walk to the park. People report using parks frequently, yet it was observed that many park areas were largely unused during substantial portions of the week. Supervised activities draw more people to the park. Based on these findings, several recommendations were made to increase physical activity and park utilization in the City of Los Angeles.

The research in this report was conducted by the Center for Population Health and Health Disparities, a RAND Health project, and was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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