How active are people in metropolitan parks? An observational study of park visitation in Australia

Parks are generally an under-utilized resource in the community with great potential to enhance levels of physical activity. If parks are to attract more visitors across a broad cross-section of the population and facilitate increased physical activity, research is needed to better understand park visitor characteristics and how visitors spend their time in parks. The Recording and EValuating Activity in a Modified Park (REVAMP) study is a natural experiment monitoring a park upgrade in a low socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhood.
This study described the observed baseline characteristics of park visitors (age, sex) and characteristics of visitation (weekday or weekend day, period of the day) and explored how these characteristics were associated with observed park-based physical activity in two metropolitan parks located Melbourne, Australia. Direct observations of park visitors were conducted using a modified version of SOPARC (the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities) on four weekdays and four weekend days. During weekdays, observations were conducted every hour from 7:30 am-4:30 pm and on weekend days from 8:30 am-4:30 pm. This equated to a total of 1460 scans across the two parks. In total, 4756 park visitors were observed with the majority visiting on weekend days (87 %) and in the afternoon (41 %). Most visitors (62 %) were lying, sitting or standing, with only 29 % observed engaging in moderate-intensity and 9 % in vigorous-intensity physical activity. Park use differed by time of day, sex, age group, and neighborhood SES. Physical activity was lower for women than men (OR 0.76) and higher among visitors in the high SES area (OR 1.52). Parks offer substantial opportunities for people of all ages to engage in physical activity; however, this study showed that a large proportion of the park visitors observed were engaged in sedentary pursuits. Further research on how park design, amenities and programming can optimize park visitation and park-based physical activity is needed.


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Carver, Allison (Author); Timperio, Anna (Author); Giles-Corti, Billie (Author); Abbott, Gavin (Author); Veitch, Jenny (Author); Salmon, Jo (Author)


National Center for Biotechnology Information: 2015