Exercise as it relates to Disease/Does access to outdoor gyms increase physical activity levels in low socioeconomic areas?

This Wikibooks page is a critical appraisal of the journal article "Outdoor gyms in Santiago: urban distribution and effects on physical activity" by Mora et al. 2017[1]

What is the background of this research?Edit

There are many barriers that people from low socio-economic backgrounds face in terms of their overall health and fitness [2]. One of the major impacts that is often brought up is the lack of access to facilities [3].

Access to facilities is a very important factor to look at when trying to improve the physical activity levels of a population, access to to gyms, sporting facilities and walking tracks have all been shown to increase physical activity levels an almost all populations around the world.[4]. Although access to facilities has increased as a whole throughout the world, the implementing and construction of facilities hasn't been performed equally throughout all neighbourhoods/area's. The purpose of this study was to look at the effect of outdoor public gyms and the impact they have on the physical activity levels of people living in low socioeconomic areas. The study observed this by looking at the location of all existing outdoor gyms (OGs) in Santiago, Chile, and establish a profile of the users.

What kind of research was this?Edit

The research was broken down into two stages. The first stage was a mixed type research which used qualitative and quantitative measures that aimed to locate all outdoor gyms in in the city of Santiago, Chile, in order to map them and look how different socioeconomic levels have different accessibility to these facilities. The second stage of the research was through the use of a questionnaire which required qualitative answers.

What did the research involve?Edit

Access map of outdoor gyms in Santiago, Chile

The research was broken down into two stages. The first stage was performed by observing all outdoor gyms throughout the city of Santiago, Chile and pinpointing them on a map. The map was then broken down into districts to show accessibility to outdoor gyms. The procedure consisted of selecting all blocks within the 500m radius of outdoor gyms, and then analysing the socioeconomic characteristics of all households living in these blocks, based on data from the 2002 National Census[5]. This is a good method of find out accessibility for differing socioeconomic levels as the distance is short and they are taking advantage of data obtained by the government census, however, the data is still old compared to when the study was conducted with the socioeconomic levels data coming from 2002 while the study was performed in 2017.

The second stage of the study was performed through the use of a questionnaire. The questionnaire collected basic characteristics of users, such as age, gender and educational level as well as asking questions about their use of the outdoor gyms such as:

  1. How many blocks they lived from an OG they were using
  2. how long they spent at these facilities
  3. if they walked or used a bicycle for more than 10 minutes to get to work, or school/university, and how frequently they did this
  4. evaluation of their general health level compared to one year ago
  5. whether prior to using the outdoor gyms these users had carried out any physical activity and what was their main motivation to use the OGs.

These questions aimed to get a better understanding of how people were using the facilities and how it has impacted their physical activity levels. The questions used were good, however there are some more questions that would have been helpful to get data on such as; "how long have you been using the outdoor gyms in your area?" as these can be helpful to figure out if people are performing enough physical activity to fit their guidelines[6]. It is important to note that the data obtained from the questionnaire is still self reported so we should still take into account biases.

What were the basic results?Edit

Outdoor gym distribution Santiago

The data received from the study showed while there is a large number of outdoor gyms in the city of Santiago, Chile, the outdoor gyms are not spread evenly throughout all neighbourhood. The poorer areas in the city are shown to clearly have greater access to outdoor gyms than the areas of more affluent living.

The second part of the study showed that 64% of people that were using the gyms had access to one within 500m of their place of living, however this was access to an outdoor gym with at least 2 forms of equipment. In terms of gyms with at least 6 types of equipment, only 27% of people using them said they lived within 500m of it. The questionnaire also had the same results as the map, showing that in lower socioeconomic areas, access to outdoor gyms was greater with the lowest socioeconomic group was greatest with 60% of them saying that they had access to an outdoor gym with 500m of their living place. The questionnaire also showed positive results in terms of increasing the physical activity levels of those that were using them.

What conclusions can we take from this research?Edit

The study shows that having an increased access to facilities for those living in low socioeconomic areas has a positive effect on increasing the levels of physical activity within the population. The results can be back up by other literature showing similar results in different populations[7]. The results also conclude that governments should be looking into distributing funds to create more areas that are free to access that the public can use, as access to facilities such as paid gyms and other paid areas is increased in areas with greater wealth. However, we must take into account that the data received from this study does come from a developing country meaning that if the study was performed in a developed country such as Australia, results may differ slightly.

Practical adviceEdit

  • The article does show the correlation between increased access to outdoor gyms and increased physical activity levels within low socioeconomic populations.
  • The study shows that, often, outdoor gyms are placed in areas of lower socioeconomic backgrounds, however this should be looked at in other countries with different populations before this is taken as facts worldwide.
  • The study was performed in the capital city of a developing country so there may be some differences in results when performed in developed countries or even in smaller cities within the same country
  • Study looked at the lower socioeconomic population as a whole and didn't look at the other variables within the population using it such as their age or ethnicity

Further information/resourcesEdit


  1. Mora et al. Outdoor gyms in Santiago: urban distribution and effects on physical activity. SciELO 2017
  2. Kamphuis et al. Perceived environmental determinants of physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption among high and low socioeconomic groups in the Netherlands health and place 2007
  3. Baquet, G., Ridgers, N.D., Blaes, A. et al. Objectively assessed recess physical activity in girls and boys from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds. BMC Public Health 14, 192 (2014).
  4. French SA, Jeffery RW, Oliphant JA. Facility access and self-reward as methods to promote physical activity among healthy sedentary adults. Am J Health Promot. 1994
  5. Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas (INE), Censo de Población y Vivienda 2002. Accessed from http://www.ine.cl/canales/chile_estadistico/censos/censo_poblacion_vivienda.php. 2002
  6. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity
  7. Archie S, Wilson JH, Osborne S, Hobbs H, McNiven J. Pilot Study: Access to Fitness Facility and Exercise Levels in Olanzapine-Treated Patients. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2003