Using Observational Methods to Evaluate Public Open Spaces and Physical Activity in Brazil

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Open public spaces have been identified as important facilities to promote physical activity (PA) at the community level. The main goals of this study are to describe open public spaces user's characteristics and to explore to what extent these characteristics are associated with PA behavior.


A system of direct observation was used to evaluate the PA levels on parks and squares (smaller parks) and users's characteristics (gender and age). The 4 parks and 4 squares observed were selected from neighborhoods with different socioeconomic status and environmental characteristics. The settings were observed 3 times a day, 6 days per week, during 2 weeks.


More men than women were observed in parks (63.1%) and squares (70.0%) as well as more adults and adolescents than older adults and children. Users were more physically active in parks (men = 34.1%, women = 36.1%) than in squares (men = 25.5%, women 22.8%).


The characteristics of public open spaces may affect PA in the observed places. Initiatives to improve PA levels in community settings should consider users' characteristics and preferences to be more effective and reach a larger number of people.

Hino, Reis, Ribeiro, and Fermino are with the Dept of Physical Education, Pontific Catholic University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil. Parra and Brownson are with the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis. Brownson is also with the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis.