Associations between the physical environment and park-based physical activity: A systematic review

Ru Zhang*, Hagen Wulff, Yanping Duan, Petra Wagner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Background: With an increase in the evidence for the associations between park-based physical activity (PA) and physical environments (especially park and neighborhood environments), researchers face an important challenge in interpreting and summarizing the evidence to develop environmental change interventions. An updated review is needed to better inform policymaking and environmental interventions. The current study aimed to systematically review the research on the associations of park-based PA with park and neighborhood environmental characteristics. Methods: We targeted English peer-reviewed articles from 5 electronic databases using keywords related to park-based PA, park environments, and neighborhood environments. Of the 4071 identified papers, 25 studies published between 2008 and 2016 met all the eligibility criteria and were included in this review. Results: The characteristics of physical environment that received consistent support included paths/trails, lighting, and incivilities (e.g., broken glasses and litter). Mixed findings were revealed for 6 park environmental factors (unspecified active facilities, playgrounds and skating areas, fitness stations, picnic areas, greenness, and park size) and 2 neighborhood environmental factors (park density and park proximity). Conclusion: It can be concluded that paths/trails, lighting, and incivilities are 3 key physical environmental attributes of park-based PA. Given the inconsistent findings on park and neighborhood environmental factors, more robust designs such as prospective investigation are required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-421
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sport and Health Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

User-Defined Keywords

  • Neighborhood
  • Park environment
  • Park-based physical activity
  • Physical environment
  • Systematic review


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