Presentation at the 2012 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Prevalence of obesity is disproportionally greater among Latinos than other populations (Flegal, et al., 2008) and may be worse for women (Calloway & Corbett, 2007). For example, studies have shown that leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) in Latinas is lower than their white counterparts. Consequently, Latinas are at greater risk for obesity and diabetes (McNair, 2009). Additionally, research has found that levels of LTPA for Latinas have been reported to be lower than those for Latino men (Crespo et al., 1996). This disproportionality has been explained by cultural influences (Sallis et al., 1988), more family responsibilities (Tortolero et al., 1999), and higher perceived barriers to participation (Casper & Harrolle, 2010). Public parks and recreation services may be a logical place to address Latino health issues. While we have begun to understand gender differences related to physical activity with Latinos, less has been documented about gender differences related to LTPA and the role of public parks and recreation.
The objectives of our study were to investigate gender differences with Latinos related to (1) self-reported work and leisure-time PA, (2) perceptions/feelings about PA and park and recreation services, (3) park and recreation facility usage and behaviors, (4) and preferences for activities/programming.
In partnership with El Pueblo, a NC non-profit advocacy organization for Latinos, we collected data through Latino community leaders (promotores) who distributed questionnaires to local Latino constituents. The participants (N = 457) completed a paper-pencil questionnaire with a 91% return rate. Participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 69 (M = 35 years old). The majority of the participants were female (58%), married (61%), had at least a high school education (74%), were first generation immigrants (78%), and were primarily from Mexico (52%).
The survey included a self-report PA measure (Stanford Brief Physical Activity Survey; Taylor-Piliae et al., 2006) used to measure leisure and work/household PA; items measuring frequency and duration of park and recreation use; benefits of PA (e.g., physical activity improves my health) and benefits of parks and recreation (e.g., parks and recreation improves overall quality of life), and items assessing parks and recreation services preferences. Scale assessment showed normal distributions and acceptable internal reliability.
With PA items, comparisons showed a significant difference between men and women on work related PA (Men M = 3.0; Women: M = 1.9; t = 10.86, p < .001, effect size r = .45), however no significant differences existed for LTPA. There were no significant difference between men and women on perceptions of PA and park and recreation benefits (health, quality of life, and the community).
There were no significant gender differences on park use, but for those that reported visiting park and recreation facilities (n = 391), a significant difference between men and women was found on total time spent per visit (Men M = 97 min; Women M = 76 min; t = 3.37, p = .001, r = .18). While at the parks, men were most likely to walk/jog (50%), play sports (43%), look at scenery/relax outside (39%), take children to playground (35%), eat or picnic (25%), and watch sports (25%). Similarly women were most likely to walk/jog (68%), take children to playground (48%), look at scenery/relax outside (47%), eat or picnic (27%), play sports (23%), and watch sports (23%).
We found several significant differences based on recreational programming preferences: aerobics programs (Men M = 1.7; Women M = 2.4; t = 8.66, p < .001, effect size r = .39), aquatic programs (Men M = 2.0; Women: M = 2.2; t = 3.13, p = .002, effect size r = .15), dance (Men = 1.6; Women: M = 2.4; t = 10.09, p < .001, effect size r = .45), soccer (Men M = 2.4; Women M = 1.9; t = 6.05, p < .001, effect size r = .29), and walking programs (Men M = 2.1; Women: M = 2.5; t = 5.74, p < .001, effect size r = .30). No significant differences existed for adventure programming, baseball, basketball, flag football, dodgeball, kickball, tennis, and volleyball.
As both the men and women in our study felt that parks were locations to be physically active, public health practitioners and policy makers should promote the use of public parks as settings for physical activity by Latinos. However, park and recreation providers should recognize gender differences in recreation program preferences within the Latino community. This study supports previous research showing Latino men are more active in the work environment, but gender was not a factor in leisure PA. The data showed that while a majority of respondents visit parks and recreational facilities, men stay longer and gender-specific programming preferences existed.
This study was funded by a grant from IPARC a research initiative at NC State University.