Neighborhood Park Use by Children

Use of Accelerometry and Global Positioning Systems


      Although having a greater number of neighborhood parks may be associated with greater overall physical activity in children, information is lacking about the extent to which children actually use parks for physical activity.


      This study combined accelerometer, GPS, GIS, and self-report methods to examine neighborhood park availability, perceived proximity, and use for physical activity in children.


      Low- to middle-income children (aged 8–14 years) (n=135) from suburban communities in Southern California wore an Actigraph accelerometer and GlobalSat BT-335 GPS device across 7 days to measure physical activity and park use, respectively. ArcGIS identified parks within a 500-m residential buffer of children’s homes. Parents reported perceptions of neighborhood park proximity through the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Survey (NEWS). Data were collected from March 2009 to December 2010, and analyzed in 2013.


      Fifty-four percent of families lived within 500 m of a park. Of these children, GPS data indicated that 16% used it more than 15 minutes and an additional 11% of children used it between 5 and 15 minutes during the 7-day study period. The odds of extended park use (>15 minutes) increased fourfold when the distance between home and the nearest neighborhood park decreased by 100 m. Additionally, the odds of any park use (>5 minutes) doubled when moving from the 25th to the 75th percentile for park greenness/vegetation density.


      Although children’s use of neighborhood parks was generally low, it increased substantially when parks were closer to children’s homes and had greater vegetation density.
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