domingo, 12 de julio de 2015

Social and Environmental Factors Related to Boys’ and Girls’ Park-Based Physical Activity

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Social and Environmental Factors Related to Boys’ and Girls’ Park-Based Physical Activity

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Social and Environmental Factors Related to Boys’ and Girls’ Park-Based Physical Activity

Jason N. Bocarro, PhD; Myron F. Floyd, PhD; William R. Smith, PhD; Michael B. Edwards, PhD; Courtney L. Schultz, MS; Perver Baran, PhD; Robin A. Moore, MCP; Nilda Cosco, PhD; Luis J. Suau, PhD

Suggested citation for this article: Bocarro JN, Floyd MF, Smith WR, Edwards MB, Schultz CL, Baran P, et al. Social and Environmental Factors Related to Boys’ and Girls’ Park-Based Physical Activity. Prev Chronic Dis 2015;12:140532. DOI:


Parks provide opportunities for physical activity for children. This study examined sex differences in correlates of park-based physical activity because differences may indicate that a standard environmental intervention to increase activity among children may not equally benefit boys and girls.
The System for Observation Play and Recreation in Communities was used to measure physical activity among 2,712 children and adolescents in 20 neighborhood parks in Durham, North Carolina, in 2007. Sedentary activity, walking, vigorous park activity, and energy expenditure were the primary outcome variables. Hierarchical logit regression models of physical activity were estimated separately for boys and girls.
Type of activity area and presence of other active children were positively associated with boys’ and girls’ physical activity, and presence of a parent was negatively associated. A significant interaction involving number of recreation facilities in combination with formal activities was positively associated with girls’ activity. A significant interaction involving formal park activity and young boys (aged 0–5 y) was negatively associated with park-based physical activity.
Activity area and social correlates of park-based physical activity were similar for boys and girls; findings for formal park programming, age, and number of facilities were mixed. Results show that girls’ physical activity was more strongly affected by social effects (eg, presence of other active children) whereas boys’ physical activity was more strongly influenced by the availability of park facilities. These results can inform park planning and design. Additional studies are necessary to clarify sex differences in correlates of park-based physical activity.


Most US children do not accumulate the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and adherence to recommendations is significantly lower among girls (1). Public parks and playgrounds are key components of environmental interventions to increase physical activity among children during nonschool hours and can be modified through public policy to further encourage daily physical activity (2).
Availability of a variety of recreation facilities and proximity to them have been associated with increased physical activity among adults (3) and children (4), with some exceptions (5). Improvements and renovations in parks (6) and school playgrounds (7) have been associated with increased park-based physical activity among children. Although studies have shown there are sex differences among youth park-based physical activity (8), research examining such differences in the context of social and environmental factors such as parental supervision and other children is limited (9).
Previous studies provide evidence that associations between environmental variables and physical activity vary between boys and girls (10,11). Sex differences present challenges for understanding how the built environment affords opportunities for physical activity among children. Such differences may indicate that a standard environmental intervention to increase activity among children may not equally benefit boys and girls. Understanding whether social and environmental determinants influence physical activity differently among boys and girls can be used to guide decisions related to programming options and the design and retrofitting of parks. Therefore, this study sought to determine if associations among social and environmental characteristics of parks and park-based physical activity among children varied by sex. We hypothesized that boys’ park use would result in greater intensity levels of park-based physical activity than girls’ park use across different park activity settings. Second, we hypothesized that social and environmental correlates of park-based physical activity vary between boys and girls.


This study was funded by a grant from Active Living Research (no. 59449), a research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The authors thank the City of Durham, North Carolina, Parks and Recreation Department, for its assistance with this study.

Author Information

Corresponding Author: Jason N. Bocarro, PhD, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University, Box 8004, Biltmore Hall, Raleigh, NC 27695. Telephone: 919-513-8025. Email:
Author Affiliations: Myron F. Floyd, William R. Smith, Michael B. Edwards, Courtney L. Schultz, Perver Baran, Robin A. Moore, Nilda Cosco, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina; Luis J. Suau, Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina.


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