Observational Park-based physical activity studies: A systematic review of the literature

Rodney P. Joseph, Jay E. Maddock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


This article reports the outcomes of a systematic review of observational park-based physical activity (PA) studies. Five electronic databases and the Active Living Research website were searched in July 2015 to identify relevant articles. Studies were included if they: a) reported observational data collected at outdoor park-based settings during free living conditions, b) reported results of a park audit, c) included PA as an outcome measure of the park audit, and d) were published after 1990 in English-language peer-review journals. Thirty-two articles, reporting outcomes of 26 unique studies, met inclusion criteria for review. Most studies (n = 20, 87%) had cross-sectional or non-interventional study designs, while 6 (23%) employed quasi-experimental designs. Studies were predominately conducted in the U.S. (n = 19, 76%). The median number of park users across studies was 4558 (Range = 815 to 76,632). Approximately half (51%) of all park users were female. Eighty-one percent of studies (n = 21) reported PA outcomes for individuals of all ages, while 4 studies (15%) reported PA outcomes for children only and 1 study (4%) for adults only. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) of park users ranged from 31% to 85% (Median = 55.0%). Studies conducted in the U.S. reported a slightly higher median number of park-users engaging in MVPA than those outside the U.S. (60.5% vs. 52.8%). Fifteen studies examined gender differences in MVPA. Among these, 12 (87%) reported more males engaging in MVPA than females. Results of this review highlight the need for innovative strategies to promote MVPA among park users and to increase park use among children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-277
Number of pages21
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Community
  • Exercise
  • Parks
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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