Incorporating Physical Activity Measures Into Environmental Monitoring of National Parks: An Example From Yosemite

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

To address increasing prevalence of obesity and associated chronic disease, recent national initiatives have called upon federal agencies to promote healthy lifestyles and provide opportunities for physical activity. In response, the U.S. National Park Service has developed strategies promoting health through physical activity in addition to its well-established biodiversity and landscape conservation mission. Incorporating physical activity measures with routine environmental monitoring would help identify areas where parks can promote active pursuits with minimal environmental impact. This study provides one example of how protocols developed for visitor and environmental monitoring can generate data to evaluate physical activity.

Methods:

Researchers implemented an observational study in high-use meadows of Yosemite National Park during the summer of 2011. Variables measured include the spatial location of visitors and activity type. Metabolic equivalents (METs) were assigned to activity categories and analyzed for average energy expenditure.

Results:

Mean METs values indicated sedentary to light physical activity across the meadows, with greater means in areas with boardwalks or paved pathways.

Conclusions:

Data leveraged in this study provide park managers an example of adapting existing monitoring programs to incorporate indicators relevant to physical activity evaluation and how physical activity may impact resource conditions in national parks.

Walden-Schreiner (cawalden@ncsu.edu), Leung, and Floyd are with the Dept of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.