Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Physical Activity Levels and Preferences of Ethnically Diverse Visitors to Georgia State Parks

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Physical Activity Levels and Preferences of Ethnically Diverse Visitors to Georgia State Parks

Article excerpt

Introduction

Researchers and health professionals have attributed inadequate levels of physical activity to the growing obesity epidemic (Ogden et al, 2006), increasing incidence of cardiovascular disease (Soft, Capalbo, Cesari, Abbate, 8c Gensini, 2008), and potential declines in life expec- tancy observed in the U.S. population (Olshansky et al., 2005). Although the health benefits of active lifestyles are widely recognized, many Americans (estimates range from 51% to 55%) fail to obtain recommended levels of physical activity (i.e., 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week) (CDC, 2010; Macera et al., 2005; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Furthermore, about 25% of Americans report no leisure-time physical activity (CDC, 2005), and increasing sedentary behavior may be a key factor contributing to declines in physical fitness (Brownson, Boehmer, 8c Luke, 2005). Adverse health effects associated with physical inactivity are especially problematic within low-income, racial, and ethnic minor- ity communities (Crespo, Smit, Anderson, Carter-Pokras, 8c Ainsworth, 2000; Floyd, Taylor, 8c Whitt-Glover, 2009; Pratt, 2008; Thomas, Eberly, Smith, Neaton, 8c Stamler, 2005). For example, data show more than 75% of the nations rapidly increasing Latino population is overweight or obese (Marquez 8c McAuley, 2006; Ogden et al., 2006). As the costs and consequences associated with escalating inactivity place additional stress on the American health care system (Rosenberger, Sneh, Phipps, & Gurvitch, 2005), the identification and development of strategies that support healthy, active lifestyles are and will become even more important.

Studies indicate people's physical activity levels could be improved through a holistic ap- proach to health promotion that emphasizes environmental surroundings as well as intra-personal (e.g., internal beliefs and motivations) and interpersonal factors (e.g., social relationships) (Sallis et al., 2006; Shores 8c West, 2008a; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Roux et al. (2008) found the most cost-effective and beneficial approaches to encouraging physi- cal activity involve combinations of individually adapted health behaviors, social support, and community-wide campaigns. The influence of community-level variables in physical activity promotion underscores the potential utility of parks for addressing America's physical activity problems (Mowen et al., 2008). By supplying a range of opportunities for outdoor recreation, public parks create an environment conducive to physical activity that may help to improve health for individuals and communities (Bedimo-Rung, Mowen, 8c Cohen, 2005; Godbey, Caldwell, Floyd, & Payne, 2005a; Godbey 8c Mowen, 2010; Ho, Payne, Orsega-Smith, 8c Godbey, 2003). Recently, studies have begun to address the effect of park use on physical activity participation, but more research is needed to evaluate public parks' potential to provide accessible, low-cost opportunities for physical activity across a diverse cross section of the American public (Godbey & Mowen, 2010).

Early research examining links between parks and physical activity focused on the access and availability of recreation spaces and facilities. Many of these studies revealed relationships between residential proximity to parks and physical activity (Giles-Corti et al., 2005; Kaczynski, Potwarka, Smale, 8c Havitz, 2009; Mowen, Orsega-Smith, Payne, Ainsworth, 8c Godbey, 2007). For example, Kaczynski and Henderson's (2007) literature review found 40 of 50 published articles examining parks and the physical activity that occurred within those parks reported positive associations between park and recreation attributes and physical activity levels, although there was a wide range in the strength of association. This finding suggests that physical inactivity ob- served in low-income minority neighborhoods may be mitigated by access to physical activity- related facilities and amenities (Crawford et al. …

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