Correlates of park-based physical activity among children in diverse communities: Results from an observational study in two cities

John O. Spengler, Myron F. Floyd, Jason E. Maddock, Paul H. Gobster, Luis J. Suau, Gregory J. Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Purpose. This study examined correlates of park-based physical activity (PA) among children in neighborhood parks. Design. Direct observation was used to assess PA among children. Setting. Public parks in Tampa, Florida (n = 10), and Chicago, Illinois (n = 18), from low income and high income and racially/ethnically diverse communities. Subjects. Children (n = 3410), coded as anyone who appeared to be 10 years or younger, observed at parks in Tampa and Chicago. Measures. Physical activity was measured by a modified version of the System for Observing Play and Leisure Among Youth (SOPLAY). Analysis. Descriptive statistics and multilevel regression models were used in data analysis. Results. At the activity observation level, children's PA was positively related to temperature and unstructured activities in Tampa and Chicago parks. Among park activity area predictors, type of activity area was significantly related to PA. In Tampa, more PA was observed on courts, and less PA was observed inshelterareas comparedwithopenspaceareas. InChicago, lessPAwasobservedoncourts and fields compared with open space areas. Neighborhood income was associated with lower PA in Tampaparks.Neighborhood race/ethnicitywasnotasignificantpredictor of children's PA in either city. Conclusions. Children's PA was linked to modifiable social and environmental features within parks. Strategies to increase PA among children in parks should promote courts, playgrounds, informal activities, and free play.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1-E9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2011


  • Built Environment
  • Children
  • Income
  • Neighborhoods
  • Parks
  • Physical Activity
  • Prevention Research
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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