Demographic Characteristics and Physical Activity Behaviors in Sixteen Michigan Parks

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Exercise Science


The Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative addresses inadequate physical activity in Michigan using a population-based approach to prevent chronic disease. Eighteen local health departments through 2010 received $1,505,179 to plan and implement community based interventions to increase physical activity among low income and minority populations. This paper examines park user demographics, compares park user demographics to the demographic characteristics and examines physical activity behaviors of park users in these parks. BHC Park usage was examined from 2008 to 2010 using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). One sample binomial tests were used to examine if the proportion of male and female park users was different than the proportion of males and females in Michigan and to examine if the proportion of white and other park users was different than the proportion of whites and others in Michigan. A chi-square goodness-of-fit test was used to examine whether the observed proportions for age groups observed using the park differed from the actual proportions for age groups in Michigan. The majority of BHC park users were white. More children were observed than other age groups. Park users were most often observed engaging in walking or vigorous activity rather than sedentary activities. When comparing the proportion of whites (54.7%) and others (42.8%) observed using the parks to the proportion of whites (79%) and others (21%) residing in Michigan, there was a significant difference (P\0.001) with a greater proportion of whites and smaller proportion of persons of other ethnicities expected to be observed using the parks. This chi square goodness of fit test showed a significant difference in the observed and expected number of persons observed using the trail in each age group (v2 = 4,897.707, df = 3, P\0.001) with a greater number of children (n = 1,939) and teens (n= 1,116) observed than the number of children (n= 828) and teens (n = 305) expected based on 2010 Michigan census data. A greater proportion of non-whites (compared to whites) were observed using the park than would be expected. In Michigan, 60% of blacks, 37% of Hispanics, and 53% of other minority groups do not meet national physical activity recommendations. Perhaps developing additional parks in Michigan can increase physical activity behaviors among minorities.


Originally published:

Reed, Julian A., Anna E. Price, et al. "Demographic Characteristics and Physical Activity Behaviors in Sixteen Michigan Parks." Journal Of Community Health 37.2 (2012): 507-512.


Journal Of Community Health