Health and Wellness

Health and WellnessLeading the nation to improved health and wellness through parks and recreation.

America continues to feel the strain of a serious health crisis affecting adults and young alike. One in which we are plagued by poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy habits. But there is a solution with little to no cost and is available in nearly every town, city and community – local parks and recreation.

The scientific evidence is mounting that parks and recreation are building healthier communities and top health officials in the country – U.S. Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – validate that parks and recreation are a critical solution for our nation’s health epidemic.

Parks and recreation are enacting strategies focused on improving access to healthy food, increasing opportunities for physical activity, decreasing tobacco consumption, and so much more. The solutions they provide are making a real difference, like in Montgomery, AL, where leadership by the park and recreation agency has helped reduce the rate of obesity from 34 to 30.9 percent, taking the county from the Most Obese in 2010 to 15th in 2012.

The time is now to demonstrate how parks and recreation are effectively able to create healthy and prosperous communities. Watch NRPA’s President and CEO Barbara Tulipane, CAE talk about how parks and recreation can embrace leadership in health and wellness.

Position Statements

Resources for Health and Wellness

Making the Case: Parks and Health

Rope Swing PhotoMaking the Case: Parks and Health is an easy-to-use resource to help park and recreation leaders make the objective case to elected officials that parks are a critical part of the community’s public health infrastructure. The resource includes data-rich fact sheets, presentations, infographics and other resources that will help you get support for your agency. Learn more about these resources.

Health and Wellness Poster

Health and Wellness Poster
Download a PDF copy of our Health and Wellness poster to display at your agency or share with the public. (High Resolution version or Low Resolution version)

Walking Initiatives

WalkingIf you want to add physical activity to your day, walking is a great way to get moving. Your local parks offer some of the best places to take a walk so you not only can get active, you can enjoy the benefits of being outdoors too. NRPA's resource page is a great place to help you get out and walk. 

Quantifying the Contribution of Public Parks to Physical Activity and Health

SOPARC ReportBecause public parks contribute to health and well-being, primarily by serving as an important venue for physical activity, it is in the best interests of park administrators to have a method to measure this contribution. While parks offer health benefits beyond physical activity, physical activity can be objectively measured and is an excellent way to demonstrate the value of parks. Learn more in Quantifying the Contribution of Public Parks to Physical Activity and Health. Download Quantifying the Contribution of Public Parks to Physical Activity and Health.

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Program

United States mapThe County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to measure the health of nearly all counties in the nation and rank them within states. The Rankings are compiled using county-level measures from a variety of national and state data sources. These measures are standardized and combined using scientifically-informed weights.


Interactive Map Explores Health Trends in the United States

USA MapThe Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, created this interactive map in which you can explore health trends in the United States at the county level for both sexes in life expectancy, hypertension, obesity and physical activity. This research helps provide a foundation for informed decision-making and community action toward eating healthier and increasing physical activity.

Explore more health and wellness resources.

Parks & Recreation Magazine: Health and Wellness Articles

Troops for Fitness Engages Military Veterans in Community Health and Wellness Programming
By Marla Collum
November 2016 Issue
Summary: Some tips from park and recreation agencies that have successfully implemented Troops for Fitness programs.

Super Summer Chefs
By Mariana Espinoza
October 2016 Issue
Summary: Grand Prairie, Texas, Parks, Arts and Recreation Department's Super Chef summer campers learned about the ingredients for a healthier lifestyle.

Reducing Health Disparities in South Florida
By Kailyn Mattingly
September 2016 Issue
Summary: Steven Marcus, Ed.D., is the recipient of the 2016 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for making measurable and sustainable differences in the health of South Florida residents.