The Challenge: Regular physical activity improves health and reduces the risk for obesity and its related health consequences, and evidence suggests that parks and playgrounds can encourage physical activity.
Make an impact: Parks and playgrounds play an important role in promoting physical activity and health, and communities with more parks and more total park acreage have higher levels of physical activity.
What the findings are about: This synthesis summarizes research on how parks can shape active lifestyles across a variety of populations, including children, seniors, lower-income families, specific racial and ethnic groups and other populations at high risk of being inactive.
Key Findings and Recommendations:
People who live closer to more parks tend to be more physically active.
Park conditions, maintenance, policies and programs can influence park use and physical activity levels.
Within parks, people tend to be more physically active on trails, at playgrounds and at sports facilities.
Organized park programs and supervision may increase use of parks and playgrounds and may increase physical activity, particularly among youth.
Racial and ethnic minority and lower-income groups that are at highest risk of childhood obesity may especially benefit from physical activity opportunities at parks and recreation facilities, yet these populations tend to have less access to parks and recreation resources.
Mowen A. Parks, Playgrounds and Active Living. A Research Synthesis. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; February 2010. Available from: www.activelivingresearch.org.