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Renovations of neighbourhood parks: long-term outcomes on physical activity
  1. Deborah A Cohen1,
  2. Bing Han1,
  3. Jennifer Isacoff2,
  4. Bianca Shulaker3,
  5. Stephanie Williamson1
  1. 1 RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, USA
  2. 2 The Trust for Public Land, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3 The Trust for Public Land, Washington, DC, District of Columbia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deborah A Cohen, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica CA 90407, USA; dcohen{at}


Background Neighbourhood parks are places designed to support physical activity, but are often underutilised. Park renovations are major improvements to the quality of these spaces and usually attract more park users. This study assessed changes in the use of six San Francisco neighbourhood parks and park-based physical activity levels over a 6-year period, during which five of the six parks were renovated.

Methods We used direct observation to assess park-based physical activity. We used a stepped-wedge study design at three time points in all six parks over 6 years (before all parks were renovated, after two parks were renovated and after an additional three were renovated) to evaluate the short-term and long-term effects of park renovations.

Results Levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and metabolic equivalent hours expended in the parks increased overall, most immediately after renovation. Age groups responded differently with the largest increases in park use and MVPA among adults and children under age 12, with no changes among teens and seniors.

Conclusions Park renovations attracted more users and increased park-based MVPA than non-renovated parks and sustained increases over time for adults and children, but not teens or seniors. Park renovations that consider and provide facilities that support varied levels of physical activity and cater to all age groups may foster increased park-based physical activity that can be sustained.

  • physical activity
  • neighborhood/place
  • public health
  • public health policy

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  • Contributors DAC was the principal investigator of the study and took the lead in study design and manuscript preparation. BH conducted the DID data analysis. JI assisted with the study design and oversaw data collection across all three waves. BS handled data collection in the second and third waves. SW was the programmer and did first-line statistical analysis. All the authors participated in data interpretation and manuscript preparation.

  • Funding This study was funded in part by NHLBI #R01HL114283 and #R01HL114432.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Institutional Human Subjects Protection Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Study data can be made available to other researchers upon request to the principal investigator, DC.