Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Janice Miller Polgar


Research on the quality of parks and playgrounds has been limited, particularly regarding how conditions and cleanliness of parks and playgrounds influence park-based physical activity in children. This thesis explored the relationship between the quality of parks and playgrounds and physical activity in children, through a scoping review and a mixed-methods study.

The scoping review used a systematic search to identify gaps in the literature and to disseminate research findings on the topic. A total of 10 articles were selected in accordance with the selection criteria. The review showed that the features, amenities, and safety of parks and playgrounds were associated with physical activity in children to a limited extent; however, few studies have explored other aspects of quality of parks and playgrounds, such as cleanliness and conditions. Future original studies should explore the quality attributes of parks and playgrounds that can affect physical activity in children.

A mixed-methods study was conducted to explore the relationship between the quality of parks and playgrounds and park-based physical activity in children. A total of 18 neighbourhood parks with playgrounds were selected in the city of London, Ontario, through multistage sampling, and these parks were visited on different days and at different times. The quality of parks and playgrounds was measured with the Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA), and physical activity was measured with the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC). Multiple linear regression was used to analyze the quantitative data, and thematic analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data (field notes).

The results showed that parks and playgrounds access β = .17, t(1282) = 5.41, p < .001; features β = .07, t(1282) = 2.48, p = .01; and fewer incidents of incivilities β = .14, t(1282) = 4.77, p < .001 were positively associated with physical activity, while amenities were negatively associated β = -.10, t(1282) = -3.19, p < .001; and child’s observed age and gender were not associated with park-based physical activity; however, the type of physical activity (organized or free play) varied with child’s observed age and gender. The results also indicated effects of the temperature, weather, day of the week, and time of day on park-based physical activity. These findings could help researchers conduct intervention studies evaluating how changes to parks influence physical activity in children. The findings could also help recreation planners to develop strategies that could improve the quality of parks that promote park use and park-based physical activity in children.

Appendix B.pdf (525 kB)
Appendix C.pdf (210 kB)
Appendix E.pdf (5579 kB)