Using Participatory GIS to Measure Physical Activity and Urban Park Benefits

Landscape and Urban PlanningLandscape and Urban Planning, Volume 121, January 2014, Pages 34–44

By Greg Brown, Morgan Faith Schebella, and Delene Weber


  • Uses participatory GIS methods to measure physical activities and benefits of urban parks.
  • Examines relationship between park activities and benefits with park type, size, and location.
  • Park type and size are significantly related to the type and amount of physical activities and community benefits received from urban parks.
  • Participatory GIS research methods have limitations but appear useful for examining spatial relationships to inform urban parks planning.

“Previous urban park research has used self-reported surveys and physical activity logs to examine associations between physical activity and park features, size, and distance to participants’ homes. In this study, we used participatory geographic information systems (GIS) methods to explore potential correlates of physical activity and other health benefits in urban parks. Using an internet-based public participation geographic information system (PPGIS) system, study participants identified the spatial locations where they engaged in various types of physical activity and where they received other park benefits—environmental, social, and psychological health benefits. Using an urban park typology, we found that different urban park types provide different opportunities for physical activity with linear parks providing the greatest overall physical benefit while other park types provided important non-physical community benefits. Distance to park was not a significant predictor of physical activity but park size was correlated with physical activity and other park benefits. We discuss the strengths and limitations of using PPGIS methods for understanding the benefits of urban park systems.”

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