Environmental correlates of adolescent use of public open space for physical activity

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Environmental correlates of physical activity behaviour have received much attention in the public health, geography, urban design, planning and transport literature over the past decade. Adolescents are an important age group to consider, given habits developed in childhood can potentially track into adulthood. This is an age where young people begin to have independent mobility, which has been associated with increased physical activity levels. The built environment is consistently associated with physical activity behaviours among adolescents. However, gaps in knowledge exist around which environmental features influence adolescent physical activity. Moreover, very little research has been undertaken on adolescents living in regional or rural areas.

To date, proximity to parks (often measured as the closest park to a study participant’s residence) and availability of facilities have often been examined as correlates of physical activity participation. Park attributes, that make parks more desirable to adults, have been identified and an attractiveness score has been developed in accordance with adult park use. Yet, there appears to be no published research that has identified which attributes of a park (in isolation or combination) make a park more appealing for adolescents to use for physical activity. Moreover, rarely has a study looked at the attributes of parks that have actually been reported as being used by study participants.

Methods used to audit parks have traditionally relied on site visits to subjectively measure park attributes. This method of park auditing can be costly and time consuming. As such, a more objective method that eliminates the need for site visits could potentially advance research methods associated with the built environment and physical activity participation. Indeed, the use of geographic information systems (GIS) enables remote-assessment methods and the opportunity to measure park attributes in a more objective fashion.

The overarching aims of this research were to investigate the environmental factors related to adolescent ‘park and beach use’ and physical activity and in doing so, develop environmental measures relevant to adolescent physical activity.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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