How Does Park Use and Physical Activity Differ between Childhood and Adolescence? A Focus on Gender and Race-Ethnicity
Physical activity typically declines between childhood and adolescence. Despite urban parks being a great venue for physical activity, children change both the frequency of park use and their park use habits as they age into adolescence. However, little is known about how these differences vary by gender and how distinct race/ethnicity groups differentially change their park habits. This study analyzed the differences in park use and per capita energy expenditure between children and teenagers of different gender and race/ethnicity backgrounds. Using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC), systematic observations were conducted in 20 New York City parks in 2017, located in low-income areas with high presence of Latino or Asian residents. A total of 9963 scans in 167 distinct target areas counted 16,602 children (5–10 years old) and 11,269 teenagers (11 or older). Using adjusted marginal means, we estimated the number of park users of each age range, gender, and race/ethnicity expected to be found in each park activity setting. Teenagers of both genders and most race/ethnicity groups were less likely to be in a park and had lower per capita energy expenditure, compared with children. The difference in park attendance was greater than the difference in per capita energy expenditure. Dissimilarities were clearly gendered and race/ethnicity dependent. Asian and Latino females showed the greatest divergence between childhood and adolescence. African American boys were the only group to show a positive age contrast in park attendance and per capita energy expenditure.
KeywordsPark use Park physical activity Children Teenagers Race-ethnicity SOPARC
The authors would like to thank the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, for their collaboration, and the team of observers from Columbia University that assisted in data collection. Ethics approval for the project Physical Activity and Recreation in Children in Communities of Color was granted by the NC State University, Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects in Research (ref. 9376). This project was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the Physical Activity Research Center (2016-2953). OM had a Juan de la Cierva contract from the Spanish Ministry of Economy Industry and Competitiveness (FJCI 2016-28975).
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