The transition from active employment to retirement is a potentially critical period for promoting maintenance or development of recreational physical activity in older age. Park proximity and quality might be important correlates of recreational physical activity in this age group. However, research on park-physical activity relationships among mid-older aged adults is limited and inconclusive. Furthermore, while knowledge of individual moderators of park-physical activity relationships is crucial for tailoring interventions, this knowledge is also limited. We investigated relationships between perceived park proximity, park quality and recreational physical activity among mid-older aged adults. Additionally, we examined the potential moderating effects of gender, education level, retirement status, functional limitations and area of residence on these relationships.
Self-reported data on demographics, functional limitations, park proximity, park quality, recreational walking and other recreational moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) were collected among 2700 Australian adults (57–67 years) in 2012. Objective information on area of residence was collected. To examine associations of park-related variables with recreational walking and other recreational MVPA, zero-inflated negative binomial (ZINB) regression models were used.
Park proximity significantly interacted with retirement status; non-retired participants who reported living near a park were more likely to participate in recreational walking, whereas no relationship was observed in retired participants. Among those who walked for recreation, higher park quality was related to more weekly minutes of recreational walking. No significant relationships with other recreational MVPA and no moderating effects of gender, education level, functional limitations and area of residence were observed.
Parks may stimulate engagement in recreational walking among non-retirees and more walking among those who already walk. Future research should investigate which environmental factors relate to engagement in recreational walking among retirees and examine whether improvements in park quality actually lead to increases in mid-older aged adults’ recreational walking.