A Walk in the Park: The Influence of Urban Parks and Community Violence on Physical Activity in Chelsea, MA

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jan 4;13(1):97. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13010097.


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. To investigate parks, park use and physical activity, and their associations with exposure to community violence, we interviewed residents (n = 354) of a densely populated urban community. Our findings indicate that proximity to any park is not associated with physical activity. However, proximity to the preferred park reported by residents to be conducive for physical activity (with walking paths, large fields, playgrounds for children and tennis courts) was associated with physical activity. Conversely, knowledge of sexual assault or rape in the neighborhood is inversely associated with every type of physical activity (park-based, outdoor, and indoor). Our findings suggest that improvements to the built environment (parks, green spaces) may be hindered by adverse social environments and both are necessary for consideration in the design of public health interventions.

Keywords: Latino; built environment; parks; physical activity; safety; urban environment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Parks, Recreational*
  • Public Facilities*
  • Safety Management*
  • Social Environment
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Violence / prevention & control*
  • Walking / psychology*
  • Young Adult