Park-Based Physical Activity Among Children and Adolescents

Parks are important to the well-being of children and adolescents; they play an important role in increasing physical activity. This study assesses park use and park-based physical activity among children and adolescents, ages 0 to 18 in 2007.

Including 2,712 children in 20 randomly selected parks in Durham, N.C., this study used the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). The parks were systematically scanned to assess park-based physical activity—sedentary, walking, or vigorous.

Of the children observed, 34.2 percent were walking and 13.2 percent were observed in vigorous activity.

  • Playgrounds were the most common areas for children to play (40.3%), followed by open space areas (14.7%) and picnic areas (11.9%).
  • Girls were less likely to be observed in courts and fields, and more likely to be observed in playgrounds.
  • Higher physical activity levels increased 3.76 times when other active children were in the park zone.
  • Presence of a parent or adult supervisor was associated with a lower likelihood of higher levels of physical activity.

Parks can play an important role in children’s physical activity because they are generally associated with increased physical activity and are available in urban areas. More research is needed to better understand both the social and environment characteristics that effect vigorous activity at parks.