Contribution of Public Parks to Physical Activity

By Deborah A. Cohen, MD, MPH, et al.
American Journal of Public Health
(March 2007)- Parks provide places for people to experience nature, engage in physical activity, and relax. This study shows how residents in low-income, minority communities use public, urban neighborhood parks and how parks contribute to physical activity.

In eight public parks, the researchers used direct observation to document the number, gender, race/ethnicity, age group, and activity level of park users 4 times per day, 7 days per week. They also interviewed 713 park users and 605 area residents living within 2 miles of each park.
On average, over 2000 individuals were counted in each park, and about two thirds were sedentary when observed. More males than females used the parks, and males were twice as likely to be vigorously active. Interviewees identified the park as the most common place they exercised. Both park use and exercise levels of individuals were predicted by proximity of their residence to the park.
Public parks are critical resources for physical activity in minority communities. Because residential proximity is strongly associated with physical activity and park use, the number and location of parks are currently insufficient to serve local populations well.
For more information, contact Dr. Deborah Cohen at:
RAND Corporation
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407
Related Resources:
American Journal of Public Health
RAND Health
Dept. of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University