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The widespread preference and awareness of the Resident-preferred park also support the idea that park accessibility is not defined solely by geographic proximity. Rather, perception of utility, awareness of parks, and geographic proximity all contribute to a nuanced definition of accessibility. This supports previous literature showing that use of neighborhood resources reflects resident perceptions of those resources [ 27 ].

We did not find a relationship between physical activity and perceived safety, or between physical activity and knowledge of multiple violent events, which are also reported as null in other studies [ 28 ]. These null associations support Foster et al. Our findings also suggest that this is especially true for women [ 4 ]. Since women reported more sexual assault or rapes in their neighborhood than men, this specific type of community violence may impact physical activity among women more than men. Beyond these findings, our study also identifies subpopulations at greatest risk for less physical activity.

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Women, participants with less than high school education, Latinos, having an injury or impairment, and having a child aged less than 18 years show consistent inverse associations with all measures of physical activity. If we relied on conventional definitions of park access and physical activity used in previous studies [ 3 ], our analyses would show null results instead of the subtle relationships we identify between park types and the location of physical activity [ 31 ].

We are limited by the lack of information about the duration, frequency, and intensity of physical activity, which limits our ability to draw conclusions about the health implications of parks on changes in physical activity patterns. Our physical activity measures are also subject to potential recall bias. Since this is a cross-sectional study, we are limited in our ability to explore causal mechanisms.

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We cannot determine whether the associations seen in our study are due to social causation people exercise because they live closer to parks or social selection people who exercise chose to live closer to parks. We lack information on household income, and use education as a proxy measure. While this is common and typically captures socioeconomic status, it may not completely control for confounding given the influence of current income on ability to access physical activity resources.

In our study and others, larger parks and green spaces are located in higher economic status neighborhoods [ 32 ], whose residents may have more gym membership options. In our study, the highest percent of gym-users and those of higher economic status live near the preferred park, which may explain the positive association between Indoor-PA and proximity to the Resident-preferred park. This limitation further reinforces the complexities in drawing inferences from cross-sectional data.

Small numbers of participants who know about sexual assault or rape limit our ability to show statistically significant associations, although the trend in effect estimates and confidence intervals show consistent inverse correlations. Since our study population lives in one city, their park-use habits and preferences could differ from other populations.

The vast majority of participants prefer and use a park characterized by a wide variety of facilities and large green spaces with walking paths. We also found that knowledge of sexual assault or rape had a pronounced inverse association with any type of physical activity in this majority Latino population.

In addition to shaping the built environment, safe social environments play a critical role in encouraging physical activity. Our study also reinforces the importance of qualitative data in environmental studies, which enables us to examine patterns in park preferences and how those preferences are associated with physical activity. We also thank Carol Dolan for her comments on this manuscript.

During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, aerobics, dancing, or walking for exercise? If Yes What do you do for exercise? Note to interviewer: Get specifics: If running, where? If park, what park?

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To your knowledge, did any of the following occur in your neighborhood during the past six months:. A fight in which a weapon was used? A gang fight?

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A robbery or mugging? While you have lived in this neighborhood, have you experienced violence, such as a mugging, physical fight, or sexual assault, against you or any member of your household anywhere in your neighborhood? The next set of questions is about the conditions of your neighborhood. I will ask you about something people may think is a problem in your neighborhood, and you respond with either 0 No opinion, 0 No problem, 1 Minor problem, 2 Serious problem:.

Judy Y. Ou developed the project aims, ran the statistical analyses, and wrote the manuscript. Jonathan I. Levy and Junenette L. Peters contributed to statistical analysis, interpretation of findings and editing of this manuscript. Jovanna Garcia-Soto and Rafael Medina recruited study participants, conducted interviews and edited this manuscript. Roseann Bongiovanni was the community-based principal investigator and oversaw all aspects of recruitment and interviews, and contributed to the interpretation of data and editing of this manuscript. Madeleine K. Scammell was the academic principal investigator and contributed to the study design, development of the interview guide, analyses and writing.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online Jan 4. Levy , 1 Junenette L. Scammell 1. Find articles by Judy Y. Find articles by Jonathan I. Junenette L. Find articles by Junenette L. Find articles by Roseann Bongiovanni. Find articles by Jovanna Garcia-Soto. Find articles by Rafael Medina.

Find articles by Madeleine K. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received Nov 11; Accepted Dec This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Proximity to a park does not necessarily imply access or use, and the social environment may positively or negatively influence the positive intentions of the built environment.

Keywords: built environment, physical activity, safety, parks, urban environment, Latino. Introduction Physical activity protects against many health conditions, yet less than half of U.

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Park Access In addition to asking questions about physical activity, we asked a separate set of questions about parks and park use: the name of the park nearest their home, reasons why they use or do not use parks near their home, knowledge of other parks in the city, and places they recommend as good for taking a walk. Knowledge of Community Violence and Feeling Unsafe We asked participants about their knowledge of specific types of violence in their communities using a modified version of the Exposure to Community Violence scale [ 19 , 20 ].

Statistical Analyses Our objective was to determine which measures of park access and community violence were associated with physical activity, while controlling for key variables known to be individual determinants of behavior. Results and Discussion 3. Results We interviewed residents, but excluded two from the final analysis due to missing data. Table 1 Study population characteristics. Open in a separate window. Table 2 Number and percent of reported physical activity PA , local park types near home, and knowledge of community violence among the study participants.

Figure 1. Table 3 Individual odds ratios between demographic variables and physical activity PA.

Table 4 Adjusted independent odds ratios between proximity to parks and physical activity PA a. Table 5 Adjusted odds ratios between participant reports of community violence and physical activity PA a. Table 6 Adjusted odds ratios between perceived safety and physical activity PA a. Figure 2.

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Park locations and perceptions of community violence and safety in Chelsea, MA. Discussion Our results support the idea that park access and reported knowledge of community violence influence physical activity but with some inconsistencies. Appendix A. Physical Activity During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, aerobics, dancing, or walking for exercise?

Yes If Yes What do you do for exercise?

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Park Use Do you know of any good places in Chelsea to take a walk? Yes If Yes Where? Yes If Yes What parks? Community Violence and Feeling Unsafe A. Knowledge of Neighborhood Crime To your knowledge, did any of the following occur in your neighborhood during the past six months: A fight in which a weapon was used?

No A violent argument between neighbors? No A gang fight? No A robbery or mugging? Personal Experience with Violence While you have lived in this neighborhood, have you experienced violence, such as a mugging, physical fight, or sexual assault, against you or any member of your household anywhere in your neighborhood? Yes 0. Feeling Unsafe [ 21 ] The next set of questions is about the conditions of your neighborhood.

I will ask you about something people may think is a problem in your neighborhood, and you respond with either 0 No opinion, 0 No problem, 1 Minor problem, 2 Serious problem: Feeling unsafe in your home? Feeling unsafe while out alone on the street during the day? Feeling unsafe alone during the night?

Slow police response or police protection?