Parks are important settings for physical activity (PA), but few studies have documented the actual behaviors of park users. The purpose of this study was to examine the individual and joint effects of various park user demographic characteristics on observed PA intensity levels.
Four parks were observed using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities. Observers recorded the age group, gender, race, and intensity level of all park users in 83 activity areas over two weekends at each park. Logistic regression examined whether male/White, female/White, and male/non-White users were more likely than female/non-White users to be observed engaging in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) rather than sedentary activity across 4 age groups.
In total, 8612 users were observed during the study. In the child age group, male/White users were significantly more likely to be observed in MVPA than female/non-White users. For teens, female/White and male/White users were less likely to engage in MVPA. For both adults and seniors, female/White and male/White users were more likely to be observed in MVPA.
Observations revealed significant differences in intensity levels across gender, age, and race groups. Future interventions should emphasize park design that promotes increased MVPA among diverse groups.