Associations of neighborhood characteristics with active park use: An observational study in two cities in the USA and Belgium

Delfien Van Dyck, James F. Sallis, Greet Cardon, Benedicte Deforche, Marc Adams, Carrie Geremia, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij

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    47 Scopus citations


    Background: Public parks can be an important setting for physical activity promotion, but to increase park use and the activity levels of park users, the crucial attributes related to active park use need to be defined. Not only user characteristics and structural park attributes, but also characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood are important to examine. Furthermore, internationally comparable studies are needed, to find out if similar intervention strategies might be effective worldwide. The main aim of this study was to examine whether the overall number of park visitors and their activity levels depend on study site, neighborhood walkability and neighborhood income.Methods: Data were collected in 20 parks in Ghent, Belgium and San Diego, USA. Two trained observers systematically coded park characteristics using the Environmental Assessment of Public Recreation Spaces (EAPRS) tool, and park user characteristics using the System for Observing Play and recreation in Communities (SOPARC) tool. Multilevel multiple regression models were conducted in MLwiN 2.25.Results: In San Diego parks, activity levels of park visitors and number of vigorously active visitors were higher than in Ghent, while the number of visitors walking and the overall number of park visitors were lower. Neighborhood walkability was positively associated with the overall number of visitors, the number of visitors walking, number of sedentary visitors and mean activity levels of visitors. Neighborhood income was positively associated with the overall number of visitors, but negatively with the number of visitors being vigorously active.Conclusions: Neighborhood characteristics are important to explain park use. Neighborhood walkability-related attributes should be taken into account when promoting the use of existing parks or creating new parks. Because no strong differences were found between parks in high- and low-income neighborhoods, it seems that promoting park use might be a promising strategy to increase physical activity in low-income populations, known to be at higher risk for overweight and obesity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number26
    JournalInternational journal of health geographics
    StatePublished - May 7 2013



    • EAPRS
    • Green space
    • Income
    • Physical activity
    • SOPARC
    • Walkability

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Computer Science(all)
    • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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