Objective: To examine associations between the densities of available parkland, parkland provided per capita, and levels of physical activity (PA) and overweight in urban United States.
Design: Cross-sectional correlation research using data drawn from the Trust for Public Land's 2010 City Park Facts and The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). City Park Facts is a report containing “basic information on urban park systems—from acreage, to facilities, to staffing, to budgets, to usership, and more” for America's 85 largest cities. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System is a state-based surveillance system that collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices, and health care access primarily related to chronic disease and injury.
Setting: Sixty-seven metropolitan statistical areas in the United States that provided data for both reports. Participants: Randomly selected adults aged 18 years and older who participated in the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey in the 67 metropolitan statistical areas.
Main Outcome Measure(s): Total parkland per acre of metropolitan area was correlated to inactivity, engaging in recommended levels of moderate or vigorous PA, engaging in recommended levels of vigorous PA, and body weight. Parkland acreage per 1000 residents was correlated to these same variables. Multilevel models considered these relationships while controlling for race, family income, and age of respondents and accounting for clustering by metropolitan statistical area.
Results: There were significant, positive correlations between park density and PA (rs = 0.37, n = 67, P < .01) and between park density and exercise (rs = 0.35, n = 67, P < .01), and a negative correlation between park density and being above normal weight (rs = −0.32, n = 67, P < .01). Adjusted multilevel models showed that parkland density in the highest versus lowest quartile was associated with significantly higher odds of meeting PA guidelines (aOR = 1.19, 95% CI: 1.08–1.30) and reduced odds of being overweight/obese (aOR = 0.85, 95% CI: 0.76–0.95).
Conclusions: Each of these findings substantiates the need for providing parkland in a community. As such, this research helps to support the notion that the development of a strong park system may lead to positive PA and health outcomes for that community.