240065 Understanding the Relationship Between Park Characteristics and Physical Activity Levels

Monday, October 31, 2011

Stephanie Child, MPH , Department of Health and Human Services, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Elva M. Arredondo, PhD , School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Thomas L. Mckenzie, PhD , School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
John P. Elder, PhD, MPH , Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Suzanna M. Martinez, PhD, MS , Dept. of Pediatrics, Division of Child Development and Community Health, University of CA, San Diego, La Jolla, CA
Guadalupe X. Ayala, PhD, MPH , Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Background: Public parks are a low- to no-cost resource for leisure time physical activity (PA); but they are often underutilized. Few studies have examined the impact of specific park features on park use and activity levels. This study explores the relationship between modifiable park characteristics and observed PA levels of park users. Methods: Trained observers used SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Active Recreation in Communities) to assess the characteristics of users (i.e., age, gender, PA levels), target area (e.g., tennis courts, baseball fields, playground) and characteristics (e.g., accessibility, usability, equipped, organized) in 8 community parks in Southern San Diego County. Data were collected in a total of 147 target zones over five days in each park. Results: Tennis courts were least likely to be found empty. If available, fitness rooms were attractive and encouraged the most vigorous PA (49.6% of male users and 42.6% of female users). Open grass fields were heavily used by organized soccer leagues and promoted moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among males. Parks with baseball fields drew the largest number of people (n=3,871), however, many were observed being sedentary (n=2,683, 69%). Playgrounds promoted MVPA among adult women, while seniors were most likely to be found in pools and on walking paths. Implications: The findings may shed light on how environmental characteristics, such as target areas of public parks, are associated with physical activity. This knowledge can be helpful in developing future parks as well as improving current ones, to facilitate PA among community residents.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the System for Observing Play and Active Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). Compare park features based on 5 criteria for active use. Identify park features that are likely to attract users and promote vigorous physical activity.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: as a student in the Master's program at SDSU, I interned with the SDPRC where I analyzed data for the current study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.