Exploring Attitudes, Perceived Norms, and Personal Agency: Insights Into Theory-Based Messages to Encourage Park-Based Physical Activity in Low-Income Urban Neighborhoods

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Public parks hold promise for promoting population-level PA, but studies show a significant portion of park use is sedentary. Past research has documented the effectiveness of message-based strategies for influencing diverse behaviors in park settings and for increasing PA in nonpark contexts. Therefore, to inform message-based interventions (eg, point-ofdecision prompts) to increase park-based PA, the purpose of this study was to elicit insights about key attitudes, perceived norms, and personal agency that affect park use and park-based PA in low-income urban neighborhoods.


This study used 6 focus groups with youth and adults (n = 41) from low-income urban areas in Kansas City, MO, to examine perceptions of key attitudinal outcomes and motivations, perceived norms, key referents, and personal agency facilitators and constraints that affect park use and park-based PA.


Participant attitudes reflected the importance of parks for mental and physical health, with social interaction and solitude cited as key motivations. Of 10 themes regarding perceived norms, influential others reflected participants’ ethnic makeup but little consensus emerged among groups. Social and safety themes were cited as both facilitators and constraints, along with park offerings and setting.


Information about attitudes, perceived norms, and personal agency can increase understanding of theoretically derived factors that influence park-based PA and help park and health professionals create communication strategies to promote PA.

Groshong and Wilhelm Stanis are with the School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO. Kaczynski is with the Dept of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Hipp is with the Dept of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, Center for Human Health and the Environment, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. Besenyi is with the Dept of Clinical and Digital Health Sciences, College of Allied Health Sciences, Augusta University, Augusta, GA.

Groshong (lisagroshong@mizzou.edu) is the corresponding author.