Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data suggest that Latinos are less likely to be physically active and more likely to be overweight and suffer from resulting complications than are Whites and that within the Latino population, Latina women are especially at risk. Therefore, promoting physical activity among Latinos, and understanding gender participation patterns within that population, is particularly important. One strategy for encouraging physical activity is to promote active uses of public parks.
A national, multiyear, multisite study funded by the USDA Forest Service sought to understand use of public parks by Latinos and Latinas in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
More than 50% of our sample visited parks to engage in physical activity, and in part, activity choice was related to gender. Furthermore, nearly half of all respondents walked to city park sites, whereas few or none walked to state or regional park sites.
Our data suggest that Latinos are using some parks repeatedly and, in the case of city parks, are using them for physical as well as social activity. Therefore, we suggest specific ways that parks could be managed to encourage more physical activity while taking into account gender variations.
Cronan and Shinew are with the Dept of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820. Schneider and Wilhelm Stanis are with the Dept of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108. Chavez is with the Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Riverside, CA 92507.