Characteristics of urban parks associated with park use and physical activity: a review of qualitative research

Health Place. 2010 Jul;16(4):712-26. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2010.03.003. Epub 2010 Mar 12.


Given that recent literature reviews on physical activity in urban parks deliberately excluded qualitative findings, we reviewed qualitative research on this topic informed by a published classification scheme based on quantitative research. Twenty-one studies met our inclusion criteria. These studies relied mainly on semi-structured interviews with individuals or in focus groups; only five studies involved in situ observation. Our synthesis aligns with previous quantitative research showing that attributes including safety, aesthetics, amenities, maintenance, and proximity are important for encouraging park use. Furthermore, our synthesis of qualitative research suggests that perceptions of the social environment entwine inextricably with perceptions of the physical environment. If so, physical attributes of parks as well as perceptions of these attributes (formed in relation to broader social contexts) may influence physical activity patterns. Both qualitative and quantitative methods provide useful information for interpreting such patterns, and in particular, when designing and assessing interventions intended to improve the amount and intensity of physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • City Planning
  • Data Collection
  • Environment Design
  • Esthetics
  • Exercise*
  • Focus Groups
  • Gardening*
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Maintenance
  • Public Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Safety
  • Social Environment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data*