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J Community Health. 2011 Aug;36(4):640-9. doi: 10.1007/s10900-010-9355-1.

The neighborhood recreational environment and physical activity among urban youth: an examination of public and private recreational facilities.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1700 Airport Road, Campus Box 7294, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7294, USA.


Recreational facility availability has been shown to associate positively with youth physical activity levels. Nonetheless, little is known about additional facility characteristics affecting their use for physical activity as well as differences between private and public facilities. This study examines (1) perceptions and use of public and private recreational facilities and (2) environmental and individual-level correlates of both facility use and physical activity among urban adolescents. Physical activity was assessed using accelerometry, objective measures of facility availability were obtained using Geographical Information Systems data, and facility use and perceptions were measured with a survey (N = 327). Adolescents were more likely to use public than private facilities despite perceiving that private facilities were of higher quality. Adolescents' use of both public and private facilities was associated with perceived (but not objective) availability, perceived quality, and use by friends and family. Public, but not private, facility use was associated with physical activity. This study reveals the importance of public facilities to the physical activity of urban youth.

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