Major Department

Health and Human Physiology


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2017

Honors Major Advisor

Gary Pierce

Thesis Mentor

Kathleen Janz


Objective: To identify the relation between park characteristics and park use/physical activity levels in the rural Midwest community of Ottumwa, Iowa. Methods: The Physical Activity Resource Assessment (PARA) was used to determine the presence and condition of park characteristics at 13 Ottumwa parks in March 2017. Additionally, data collected by the University of Iowa College of Public Health using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) was used for data regarding park usage and physical activity levels. Results: The number of features, amenities, and incivilities varied between parks. The number of features present ranged from 1-7 with the most common being play equipment. The number of amenities present ranged from 1-10 with the most common being shaded picnic tables and trash containers. The number of incivilities present ranged from 0-2 with litter being by far the most common. Additionally, positive correlations were observed between number of features/amenities and physical activity levels and a negative correlation observed between average condition and physical activity levels. Conclusions: Positive correlations between number of features/amenities and physical activity indicates the importance of having a variety of features and amenities not only within a park but also between parks to increase the opportunities for different types and levels of physical activity. The low number of people observed within the parks reveals a need to promote park use in general and not just efforts to increase physical activity levels of current park users. Overall, more research, with larger data sets, is necessary to understand fully the influence of park characteristics on park use and physical activity levels in rural Midwest communities.


rural, physical activity, park characteristics, midwest, SOPARC, PARA

Total Pages

24 pages


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