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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Texas A&M: Parks and Rec Researchers Assess Park-based Physical Activity in Older Adults in China

Dr. Jay Maddock, chief wellness officer at Texas A&M & professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, along with researchers from the University of Hawaii, Wake Forest University and Nanchang University, investigated features and older adult use of public parks. Their study, published in the American Journal of Health Behavior, focused on eight public parks in Nanchang, China, and employed two commonly used observational tools to gather data on the parks themselves and how people used those parks.

Researchers found that more than half of the people using these parks were older adults, which stands in contrast with similar studies in the U.S. that found that only about 5 percent of park users were over 65. They also noted differences between the Chinese parks and those typical in the U.S., with only one park having a playground and none having basketball courts or baseball fields. Most of the parks had outdoor fitness equipment, all had walking paths and 3 of the 8 had badminton courts. The quality of the studied parks was high, with visually appealing landscaping and little to no graffiti or litter.

The most common physical activities were walking, dancing, the use of exercise equipment and tai chi. Women were significantly more likely to engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity than men, though similar proportions of men and women walked for exercise. When temperatures were higher, older adults using parks were far more likely to engage in sedentary activities, such as playing card games, than in cooler conditions. Also, a higher percentage of older adults participated in vigorous physical activity during the early morning than during other times of day.

This preliminary view of physical activity among older adults in parks in China points to possible avenues for increasing physical activity in parks in the U.S.

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