Placement of Outdoor Exercise Equipment and Physical Activity: A Quasi-Experimental Study in Two Parks in Southern California

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Apr 10;17(7):2605. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17072605.


To reduce the burden of chronic disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded the Orange County Partnerships to Improve Health (OC-PICH) project in Orange County, California. One of the strategies included adding outdoor exercise equipment (OEE) in two parks in Garden Grove and Anaheim. Using a quasi-experimental pre-post design, we evaluated park users' physical activity levels before and after OEE installation using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). The OEE was installed along a walking path in Edison Park (Anaheim) and grouped within a single area (a "fitness zone") in Garden Grove Park. In both parks, there were significantly greater odds of high-intensity physical activity overall after the installation-19% higher odds in Anaheim, and 23% higher odds in Garden Grove. However, the fitness zone area in Garden Grove had substantially higher odds of increased physical activity post-intervention (OR = 5.29, CI: 3.76-7.44, p < 0.001). While the increases in physical activity levels are consistent with past studies that link OEE to higher levels of physical activity among park users, our findings also suggest that the location and placement of equipment within a park may be an important factor to consider when improving park amenities for physical activity.

Keywords: SOPARC; fitness zone; outdoor exercise equipment; parks; physical activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • California
  • Child
  • Environment Design
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Gardening
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parks, Recreational
  • Public Facilities
  • Recreation
  • Text Messaging*
  • Walking
  • Young Adult