Children need safe and accessible places to play and exercise. In some neighborhoods parks are the only available resource for physical activity and as such are a focus of active living research and intervention strategies.
Researchers observed and analyzed the activity of children (age 10 and younger) in public parks in Chicago (18 parks) and Tampa, Fla. (10 parks), to determine to what extent features of the parks correlated to activity levels.
Overall, in Tampa and Chicago, 44.5 percent and 52.0 percent of children respectively were engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity. Most children were observed in playgrounds. Children were more active when engaged in unorganized activities rather than organized ones.
In Tampa, increased physical activity was associated with the presence of courts. Less activity was associated with the presence of shelters. Physical activity was higher in neighborhoods with higher incomes rather than lower incomes.
In Chicago, the pattern was a little different and less activity was associated with the presence of courts and fields and more with open space. Gender, park quality and race were not significant predictors of physical activity.
These findings can guide the decision-making of parks and recreation agency personnel seeking to encourage physical activity among children.