Associations between park features and adolescent park use for physical activity

Background:
Eighty per cent of adolescents globally do insufficient physical activity. Parks are a popular place for adolescents to be active. However, little is known about which park features are associated with higher levels of park use by adolescents.ObjectivesThis study aimed to examine which environmental park features, and combination of features, were correlated with higher levels of park use for physical activity among adolescents. By examining park features in parks used by adolescents for physical activity, this study also aimed to create a park ‘attractiveness’ score predictive of adolescent park use, and to identify factors that might predict use of their closest park.
Methods:
Adolescents (n = 1304) living in Geraldton, a large rural centre of Western Australia, completed a survey that measured physical activity behaviour, perceptions of park availability and the main park used for physical activity. All parks in the study area (n = 58) were digitized using a Geographic Information System (GIS) and features audited using the Public Open Space Desktop Auditing Tool (POSDAT).
Results:
Only 27% of participants reported using their closest park for physical activity. Park use was associated with seven features: presence of a skate park, walking paths, barbeques, picnic table, public access toilets, lighting around courts and equipment and number of trees >25. When combined to create an overall attractiveness score, every additional ‘attractive’ feature present, resulted in a park being nearly three times more likely to be in the high use category.
Conclusions:
To increase park use for physical activity, urban planners and designers should incorporate park features attractive to adolescents.

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