A new NRPA report highlights park and recreation departments’ role in promoting community members’ physical and mental health
Park and recreation professionals and their agencies are leaders in delivering vital services that advance the physical and mental health of community members. According to a new National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) report, Parks and Recreation: Advancing Community Health and Well-Being, these professionals are at the forefront of addressing public health challenges, such as physical inactivity, chronic disease, social isolation and loneliness. Furthermore, park and recreation agencies adapted during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to continue to provide these essential services, and many professionals say these innovations will continue post-pandemic.
Park and recreation departments offer physical health-focused offerings that not only promote an active lifestyle, but also provide access to healthy food and health services. These services and programs include:
- In-person and virtual fitness and exercise programs
- Community gardening programs
- Nutrition education
In addition, these professionals create opportunities for people to gather and connect with others, learn social-emotional skills, and help reduce stress and anxiety. Top programs and services aimed at improving mental wellness include:
- Community events
- Volunteering and community service
- Mindfulness programming
- Cultural programs
Furthermore, nine in 10 park and recreation agencies are taking specific actions to ensure that their health and wellness programs and services promote health equity. More than half of all park and recreation agencies have initiatives in place to support community engagement and trust building — including being transparent and training staff members on diversity, equity and inclusion — to ensure staff members understand community members’ needs.
“Park and recreation agencies are trusted community wellness hubs thanks to staff who connect community members to the services and resources needed to live healthy, fulfilling lives,” said Kevin Roth, NRPA vice president of research, evaluation and technology. “By advancing health outcomes for all people, these professionals not only enhance quality of life for individuals, but also create healthier, more vibrant communities.”
The COVID-19 pandemic proved that the physical and mental health benefits provided by parks and recreation are crucial. According to NRPA’s 2020 Engagement With Parks report, three in five U.S. residents visited a park, trail, public open space or other recreation facility at least once during the first three months of the pandemic.
To read the full Parks and Recreation: Advancing Community Health and Well-Being report, click here.
To learn more about NRPA, visit www.nrpa.org.
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 www.nrpa.org. For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit www.parksandrecreation.org.