Park and Recreation Activities Positively Impact People’s Mental Health and Well-Being, Survey Finds

(June 1, 2021)

Park and recreation professionals provide mental health support through parks, programs and services

Park and recreation professionals and their agencies play a critical role in helping people of all ages improve and maintain their mental health and well-being, according to a newly released National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) poll. Nearly all (93 percent) U.S. adults say activities offered by their local parks and recreation are beneficial to their mental health, including these top three activities:

  • Spending time in nature
  • Socializing with family and friends
  • Exercising

While the majority of people find these park and recreation-sponsored activities beneficial, parents are most likely to agree they benefit their mental health. Three in five parents say socializing with family and friends and spending time in nature are especially beneficial. Other activities typically sponsored by parks and recreation that people say are beneficial to their mental health include:

  • Taking classes or learning something new
  • Relaxing through meditation, yoga or tai chi
  • Volunteering in the community
  • Attending or participating in arts and cultural programs

“Park and recreation professionals are dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of the communities they serve. This includes providing people of all ages and abilities with access to activities, such as exercising, that are scientifically proven to boost mental health and wellness in children and adults alike,” said Kevin Roth, NRPA vice president of research, evaluation and technology. “Anyone who wants to improve their physical and/or mental health is encouraged to visit a local park or recreation center where there are healthy activity options for everyone.”     

The mental health benefits of parks are well-established. For example, parks provide a connection to nature, which studies demonstrate relieves stress levels, tightens interpersonal relationships and improves overall mental health. Most recently, parks have served as a refuge for people who want to escape the day-to-day stresses of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A recent article published online, Parks Carried the Pandemic on Their Backs. Here’s How to Thank Them, highlights this important work. To learn more about the essential role park and recreation professionals play in the health and wellness of communities nationwide, click here.

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 (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates — the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit