New Poll: Americans Turn to Parks and Recreation to Increase Physical Activity Levels and Improve Overall Health

(November 1, 2017)

Americans most likely to walk or jog at a local park if advised by a doctor to be more physically active

Ashburn, Va. (Nov. 1, 2017) — Americans rely on the vast amenities offered by their local park and recreation agency when their medical provider advises increased physical activity to improve their health. According to the latest Park Pulse poll conducted by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), more than 3 in 5 Americans say they would take up walking or jogging through local parks, on trails or around the neighborhood if they were advised to be more physically active by a doctor or other healthcare provider.

Beyond walking, Americans have found many other ways to increase their physical activity at local parks and recreation centers. These include:

  • Working out at the local gym and recreation center (29 percent)
  • Riding a bicycle at local parks, on trails or around the neighborhood (27 percent)
  • Taking an exercise or fitness class at a local gym or recreation center (20 percent)
  • Swimming at a local pool (20 percent)

Baby boomers (68 percent) are more likely than Gen Xers (61 percent) and millennials (55 percent) to walk or jog at a local park to improve their physical activity levels. Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely than baby boomers to work out at a local gym/recreation center, ride a bicycle, take an exercise class or swim at a local pool.

“Parks provide tremendous health benefits — especially in communities where health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure are prevalent,” said Barbara Tulipane, CAE, NRPA president and CEO. “Anyone looking to improve their overall health should visit their local park or recreation center where there are free and low-cost options for everyone — no matter their physical ability.”

Healthcare providers everywhere recognize the benefits of parks and recreation in building healthy and strong communities. In fact, NRPA and Walk with a Doc (WWAD) are partnering on a new initiative, called A Walk in the Park!, that is aimed at increasing physical activity in communities through local parks and recreation. As part of this newly formed partnership, NRPA and WWAD are working with healthcare providers and local park and recreation agencies to promote healthy living and encourage participation in WWAD and Walk With Ease, a proven arthritis intervention program developed by the Arthritis Foundation.

This poll is part of NRPA’s Park Pulse, a continuing series of monthly surveys that gauge the public’s opinion on topics relating to parks and recreation. To explore previous Park Pulse survey results, visit   

To view the interactive charts with the survey results, click here.

To view the full-size infographic, click here.

To learn more about NRPA, visit   


About the National Recreation and Park Association
The National Recreation and Park Association is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have access to parks and recreation for health, conservation and social equity. Through its network of 60,000 recreation and park professionals and advocates, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit