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Ariane L. Rung, Andrew J. Mowen, Stephanie T. Broyles, and Jeanette Gustat

Background:

Neighborhood parks play an important role in promoting physical activity. We examined the effect of activity area, condition, and presence of supporting features on number of park users and park-based physical activity levels.

Methods:

37 parks and 154 activity areas within parks were assessed during summer 2008 for their features and park-based physical activity. Outcomes included any park use, number of park users, mean and total energy expenditure. Independent variables included type and condition of activity area, supporting features, size of activity area, gender, and day of week. Multilevel models controlled for clustering of observations at activity area and park levels.

Results:

Type of activity area was associated with number of park users, mean and total energy expenditure, with basketball courts having the highest number of users and total energy expenditure, and playgrounds having the highest mean energy expenditure. Condition of activity areas was positively associated with number of basketball court users and inversely associated with number of green space users and total green space energy expenditure. Various supporting features were both positively and negatively associated with each outcome.

Conclusions:

This study provides evidence regarding characteristics of parks that can contribute to achieving physical activity goals within recreational spaces.