Limited research has examined park use and physical activity among economically and ethnically diverse families. This study fills that gap.
Parents (n = 326) completed a questionnaire about their park use (yes/no, parks visited, reasons for nonuse) and physical activity (Godin Leisure Time questionnaire). Geographical Information Systems was used to calculate the distance from respondents’ home address to their nearest park. The number of activity features (eg, playgrounds) in parks was determined objectively using the Community Park Audit Tool.
Half of respondents were sufficiently active; 87.6% reported park use in the prior 6 months. Among sufficiently active respondents, 92.4% reported park use (P = .011). We found no difference in park proximity between respondents who did and did not report distance as a park use barrier. An objective assessment confirmed fewer activity features in parks near the homes of respondents reporting few activity features as a barrier to park use. The most often visited parks were significantly larger than the less-often visited parks.
Parks might best support physical activity for families when activity features are carefully planned and equitably distributed across parks. Efforts to promote families’ awareness of park locations might be warranted to reduce perceived proximity barriers.
The authors are with the Dept of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Science, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT.