Parks & Recreation

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Parks and recreation facilities provide opportunities for physical activity and can help people of all ages lead a more active lifestyle. People who live near parks are more likely to be active. However, some lower-income communities and communities of color tend to have less access to quality parks and recreation facilities. Our research documents the most effective ways to improve the design, quality and availability of parks and recreation resources. Making recreational facilities accessible in all communities is a critical strategy for increasing physical activity and preventing obesity.

Download our Parks and Recreation-related Resources Sheet for the best evidence available about a variety of park- and trail-based strategies for promoting physical activity.

View The Role of Parks and Recreation in Promoting Physical Activity infographic.

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Evaluation of Automated Systems for Assessing Physical Activity in Specific Environments

title-long: 
Evaluation of Automated Systems for Assessing Physical Activity in Specific Environments
Principle Investigator First Name: 
Patricia
Principle Investigator Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Description: 

This project is developing a device that can be installed on a walking path or trail, which will allow researchers to automatically collect information about trail users. The device uses a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor that detects shapes and colors as people pass underneath a unit suspended 12 feet above a trail. The device is designed to automatically distinguish between individual users so it can potentially do more than record total trail use. For example, the study will test if it can record whether trail users are dog-walkers or bicyclists, the number of individuals using the trail, and even how often an individual user passes by. The device is being designed with off-the-shelf technology so others can easily replicate it. Sharpe’s team is testing the accuracy of the system’s trail counts by mounting a video camera alongside the device and having researchers use the video to make trail counts.

Principle Investigator Last Name: 
Sharpe
Principle Investigator Full Name (Last, First): 
Sharpe, Patricia
Principle Investigator Email: 
pasharpe@sc.edu
Award Date: 
12/01/2002
End Date: 
05/31/2005
Other Investigators: 
Barbara Ainsworth, Ph.D.
Sponsoring Organization: 
University of South Carolina
Sponsoring Organization URL: 
http://www.sc.edu/
Award Amount: 
100,000
Study Type: 
Document Type: 
Grant ID: 
GID035
Population: 
Location by State: 
Population2: 

Environmental Assessment of Public Recreational Spaces

title-long: 
Environmental Assessment of Public Recreational Spaces
Principle Investigator First Name: 
Brian
Principle Investigator Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Description: 

The intent of this project is to create a reliable tool that future researchers can use to take an inventory of the features in a public recreation area that may encourage or discourage physical activity. With the help of park professionals and users, Saelens’ team is developing a list of more than 100 park features and elements affecting access to park sites. The draft inventory tool allows raters to evaluate each element (such as “things to slide on”) and the characteristics of that element (such as “cleanliness”) on a numerical scale. Two raters were sent out to survey 92 parks and school playgrounds in Hamilton County, Ohio. The raters spent as little as 35 minutes in small pocket parks and as long as 6 hours in large regional parks. The researchers are evaluating whether the raters’ results matched each other or matched other data about the parks. The tool is being refined so other researchers can send raters into the field with confidence in the technology. A PowerPoint presentation (PDF) describing the project’s status as of January 2004 is available.

Principle Investigator Last Name: 
Saelens
Principle Investigator Full Name (Last, First): 
Saelens, Brian
Principle Investigator Email: 
brian.saelens@seattlechildrens.org
Award Date: 
01/01/2003
End Date: 
10/31/2004
Other Investigators: 
Robert Whitaker, Ph.D.
Sponsoring Organization: 
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Sponsoring Organization URL: 
http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/
Award Amount: 
98,298
Study Type: 
Document Type: 
Grant ID: 
GID034
Population: 
Location by State: 
Population2: 

Disparities in Access to Parks and Recreation Resources in Southern California

title-long: 
Disparities in Access to Parks and Recreation Resources in Southern California
Principle Investigator Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Description: 

Many older urban areas, especially communities of color, lack access to parks and recreation resources. This research project will examine disparities in access to park/recreational opportunities within metropolitan areas in southern California. Existing disparities will be related to location differences in urban landscape and development history, diverse leisure preferences, environmental injustice, and fiscal capacity of cities and nonprofits. Researchers will use park facilities audits and telephone and mail surveys to determine access to park and recreation resources. Census data will be used to classify neighborhood populations and built environments in terms of socio-economic status. An analysis of federal, state, county and city park bond/grant funding requirements will also be performed to highlight ways that policy design may improve or worsen access disparities.

Principle Investigator Last Name: 
Wolch
Principle Investigator First Name: 
Jennifer
Principle Investigator Full Name (Last, First): 
Wolch, Jennifer
Principle Investigator Email: 
wolch@usc.edu
Award Date: 
04/01/2006
End Date: 
03/31/2009
Other Investigators: 
Michael Jerrett, Ph.D., Kim Reynolds, Ph.D.
Sponsoring Organization: 
University of Southern California
Sponsoring Organization URL: 
http://www.usc.edu/
Award Amount: 
199,777
Document Type: 
Study Type: 
Grant ID: 
GID015
Location by State: 

Children's Guide to Active Living: An Analysis of Children's Use, Negotiation and Perceptions of Their Local Environment for Physical Activity

title-long: 
Children's Guide to Active Living: An Analysis of Children's Use, Negotiation and Perceptions of Their Local Environment for Physical Activity
Principle Investigator Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Description: 

The social and built environment of many minority children living in impoverished neighborhoods frequently fails to support their healthy development. Designing safe outdoor play environments that support children’s physical activity provides a potential mechanism for promoting their healthy development. However, virtually no research exists that examines how children themselves think about and use their neighborhood for physical activity. The goal of this project was to study how neighborhood physical and social processes affect the impact of redeveloped inner-city school playgrounds, known as Learning Landscapes, on children’s physical activity from the perspective of children and their caretakers. This study enriched another Active Living Research project, If They Build It, Will They Come? An Evaluation of the Effects of the Redevelopment of Inner-City School Grounds on the Physical Activity of Children, Principal Investigator Lois Brink. Information about the physical activity opportunities in the Learning Landscapes playgrounds and children’s neighborhoods was collected from students from 3 diverse schools from the main study. Children’s physical activity was assessed using SOPLAY, a direct observation method, aerial photography, children travel behavior diaries, and student focus groups.

Principle Investigator Last Name: 
Wridt
Principle Investigator First Name: 
Pamela
Principle Investigator Full Name (Last, First): 
Wridt, Pamela
Principle Investigator Email: 
pwridt@gc.cuny.edu
Award Date: 
12/15/2005
End Date: 
03/14/2008
Other Investigators: 
Lois Brink, Ph.D.
Sponsoring Organization: 
University of Colorado, Denver and Health Science Center
Sponsoring Organization URL: 
http://www.uchsc.edu/
Award Amount: 
70,327
Document Type: 
Grant ID: 
GID006
Location by State: 

Analyzing Crime as a Barrier to Physical Activity: Incorporating Crime Measures in Trail Use Models

title-long: 
Analyzing Crime as a Barrier to Physical Activity: Incorporating Crime Measures in Trail Use Models
Principle Investigator Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Description: 

Crime and safety levels can serve as potential barriers to outdoor physical activity. This project explored the relationship between actual crime and perceptions of crime in trail neighborhoods and trail use. Using data from local police records, neighborhood resident surveys, and infrared trail monitors, this study was able to add data of crime and disorder to a trail use model of an existing Active Living Research grant, Modeling Urban Greenway Use by Dr. Greg Lindsey. The goal of this project was to enhance the current trail use model and to better inform policy makers and practitioners on how crime-related issues affect trail use and physical activity levels.

Principle Investigator Last Name: 
Brown
Principle Investigator First Name: 
Robert
Principle Investigator Full Name (Last, First): 
Brown, Robert
Principle Investigator Email: 
brownra@iupui.edu
Award Date: 
12/01/2005
End Date: 
03/31/2007
Other Investigators: 
Greg Lindsey, Ph.D.
Sponsoring Organization: 
Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis
Sponsoring Organization URL: 
http://www.iupui.edu/
Award Amount: 
40,000
Document Type: 
Study Type: 
Grant ID: 
GID005
Population: 
Location by State: 

Environmental and Family Influences on Adolescent Overweight - Additional Observational Measures

title-long: 
Environmental and Family Influences on Adolescent Overweight - Additional Observational Measures
Principle Investigator Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Description: 

This project provided supplemental funds for a study originally funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) focused on obesity and the built environment. This Obesity and the Built Environment (OBE) supplemental grant added to a larger previously funded OBE grant that evaluated the influence of community characteristics and the built environment on adolescent overweight in 26 communities scattered across Vermont and New Hampshire. This supplement expanded the set of observational measures used in the OBE grant to include features from the community level, parks and playgrounds, and trails. Data was collected using observational measures produced from Active Living Research supported projects, including the Irvine Minnesota Inventory, Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument, and the Path Environmental Audit Tool (PEAT). The additional observational measures were meant to support a much wider range of community measures of the built environment than would be possible otherwise.

Principle Investigator Last Name: 
Dalton
Principle Investigator First Name: 
Madeline
Principle Investigator Full Name (Last, First): 
Dalton, Madeline
Principle Investigator Email: 
madeline.a.dalton@dartmouth.edu
Award Date: 
07/01/2006
End Date: 
12/31/2009
Other Investigators: 
Norman Marshall, M.S.
Sponsoring Organization: 
Dartmouth Medical School
Sponsoring Organization URL: 
http://dms.dartmouth.edu/
Award Amount: 
51,074
Document Type: 
Study Type: 
Grant ID: 
GID002
Population: 
Location by State: 

Objectively Measuring Physical Activity Space and Food Environments

Principle Investigator Last Name: 
Colabianchi
Description: 

This project provided supplemental funds for a study originally funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) focused on obesity and the built environment. This Obesity and the Built Environment (OBE) supplemental grant added to a larger previously funded OBE grant that examined the feasibility of obtaining adolescent self-defined neighborhood boundaries via a mapping exercise, test the practicability of having adolescents complete travel diaries to document their travel and utilization behavior, and elicit factors that are important to adolescents in determining utilization, route preference and neighborhood boundaries. This supplement complemented the OBE funded study by adding objective data from a built environment assessment tool (the Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) instrument) and a nutrition environment assessment tool (the Nutrition Environment Measurement Study (NEMS)) to answer the question, “how does quality (objectively measured) and availability of specific amenities or food variety affect physical activity and eating behavior in adolescents?”

Principle Investigator Suffix: 
Ph.D.
Principle Investigator First Name: 
Natalie
Principle Investigator Full Name (Last, First): 
Colabianchi, Natalie
Principle Investigator Email: 
colabian@gwm.sc.edu
Award Date: 
07/01/2006
End Date: 
07/31/2009
Sponsoring Organization: 
University of South Carolina
Sponsoring Organization URL: 
http://www.sc.edu/
Award Amount: 
51,361
Study Type: 
Document Type: 
Grant ID: 
GID001
Location by State: 
Population: 

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