Are independent mobility and territorial range associated with park visitation among youth?

Parks are important for providing opportunities for physical activity among youth. Apart from engaging in physical activity whilst visiting a park, active transportation (e.g. walking or cycling) to parks is potentially an additional source of physical activity. Previous research has shown that a major barrier to young people visiting parks is their inability to visit parks unaccompanied by an adult. It is not known, however, whether young people who have greater independent mobility and territorial range (ability to move around their neighbourhood alone or with friends, unaccompanied by an adult) are more likely to visit parks. This study examined park visitation and travel mode to parks and whether independent mobility and territorial range were associated with park visitation among youth living in disadvantaged areas of Victoria, Australia.
In 2010-11, 311 youth aged 8-16 years self-reported their park use, active transport, independent mobility to parks, and territorial range. Logistic regression models determined the odds of park visitation (once per week or more) according to independent mobility and territorial range, adjusting for key covariates.
Overall, 75% of participants reported visiting parks, and 37% visited their ‘usual’ park at least once per week. Of those who reported visiting parks, 87% travelled to the park they usually visited using active transport: 57% walked, 22% cycled, and 8% used a scooter/skateboard. Just 15% and 13% of youth regularly walked or cycled alone to parks/playgrounds respectively, and 25% and 19% regularly walked or cycled with friends or siblings (no adults) respectively. For the 84% who reported having parks/playgrounds within walking distance from home, those who regularly walked alone to parks (OR 3.61; CI=1.67, 7.80), and regularly walked (OR 2.27; CI=1.14, 4.55) or cycled (OR 3.38; CI=1.73, 6.62) with friends to parks, were significantly more likely to visit a park at least once per week, compared to others.
This study showed that active transport is frequently used by this sample of young people to travel to parks. Findings also highlight the potential importance of providing opportunities for youth aged 8-16 years to visit local parks independent of an adult.

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