Examining the Relationship between Proximal Park Features and Residents’ Physical Activity in Neighborhood Parks


  • Andrew T. Kaczynski
  • Mark E. Havitz


parks, features, facilities, amenities, physical activity, built environment


Physical inactivity is widely recognized as a significant public health concern, and many attributes of the physical environment, including parks, influence the opportunities people have to be active. However, most research on parks and physical activity (PA) has largely ignored that parks differ in their facilities and amenities and has employed measures of PA that are not specific to parks. The purpose of this study was to examine which features within proximal neighborhood parks were related to residents using parks for PA. As such, this study provides direction to park planners about what elements to incorporate into parks that might encourage greater levels of PA therein. Detailed data were collected from 380 people in four neighborhoods that described the locations of participants’ PA episodes over the course of seven days. All 33 municipal parks within the four neighborhoods were audited for whether they included 28 specific features (13 facilities and 15 amenities) using the Environmental Assessment for Public Recreation Spaces (EAPRS) tool. Logistic regression was used to determine the likelihood of having engaged in at least some PA in neighborhood parks during the study week according to whether the participant had each of the 28 features within a park within 1 km from his/her home. The EAPRS instrument was found to be a valuable tool for examining the properties of parks that may be related to PA. Data from participants showed that having five facilities (unpaved trail, meadow, water area, basketball court, and soccer field) and six amenities (restroom, historical/educational feature, landscaping, bike rack, parking lot, and a roadway through the park) within a nearby park was significantly related to an increased likelihood of using neighborhood parks for PA. One other nearby facility, a ball diamond, was related to significantly lower odds of engaging in at least some PA in neighborhood parks. Parks with a variety of built and natural facilities and amenities can support a range of PA behaviors. Research on park attributes and PA is still emerging, but studies like the current investigation can be conducted by individual agencies or collectives (e.g., NRPA) to ascertain which facilities and amenities encourage or inhibit PA in order to use this information in future park-planning discussions.?





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