The Vital Role of Parks and Recreation in Enhancing Family Health & Well-Being

By Cina Makres | Posted on May 15, 2024


By serving as Community Wellness Hubs that connect all members of the community to programs and services that advance health equity, improve health outcomes and enhance quality of life, local park and recreation agencies play a significant role in advancing family health and well-being. Beyond simply offering a space for leisure, parks and recreation facilities provide community members with opportunities for physical activity, social interaction and connection with nature, all of which benefit park users' physical and mental health.

Park and recreation agencies provide inclusive spaces for sports, hiking trails, fitness classes, and many other activities designed to promote healthy living. For this reason, community members, including adults and youth, who use parks and open spaces are three times more likely to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity when compared to non-users. Greenspace exposure also corresponds with improved physical health, including decreases in blood pressure, heart rate and risk of chronic disease.

Beyond physical health, parks and recreation profoundly impacts mental well-being. Access to parks and green spaces correlates to reductions in stress and symptoms of depression, as well as improved overall attention and mood. Additionally, time spent in nature positively impacts mental health by increasing cognitive performance and well-being, and alleviating illnesses such as depression, attention deficit disorders, and Alzheimer’s. In many ways, parks promote positive mental health for users by providing an easy avenue to nature, recreational activity, and social connection.  

This May, we are recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month and the ways in which parks and recreation promotes mental health and well-being. Excitingly, in June, we will continue to lift up the power of parks and recreation in promoting community wellness as we celebrate Family Health & Fitness Day!

Celebrate Family Health & Fitness Day with us on June 8!

Held the second Saturday in June each year, NRPA’s Family Health & Fitness Day is a nationwide celebration of the essential role of local parks and recreation in keeping individuals, families, and communities healthy and active. This year, Family Health & Fitness Day falls on June 8, and we want you to help us celebrate the impact of parks and recreation on family health and mental well-being!

We invite and encourage you to join our celebration by inviting families to get healthy and active at your local park, trail or recreation center on June 8. Whether that involves hosting a special event, such as a family fun run, a health and wellness fair, or simply encouraging community members to engage with your local trails or facilities through your social media platforms, there are limitless opportunities to be as creative and fun as you’d like!

This year, to support your Family Health & Fitness Day celebrations, NRPA is offering two unique opportunities to promote your celebrations and expand your learning:

1. Register Your 2024 Family Health & Fitness Day Event with NRPA

To support your events, NRPA will be compiling a list of Family Health & Fitness Day celebrations occurring across the country to share with parks users! This list will live on NRPA’s website and will provide park users with a centralized location to view and discover events being held in their local communities on June 8. If you want your organization’s event included on this list, simply complete this brief survey to share your event information with us.

2. Join us and Positive Coaching Alliance on Wednesday, June 12 for a special virtual event!

We’ll continue celebrating Family Health & Fitness Day all month long! On June 12, NRPA has partnered with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to provide a no-cost, virtual training opportunity for youth-serving professionals. Perfect for youth sports coaches, camp counselors, seasonal staff and volunteers, this training will support building positive environments for youth in your programs as you encourage them to be healthy and active.

Register here for the session, which will equip providers of youth development services with the tools to build meaningful, understanding relationships with young people. This 90-minute workshop will demonstrate how to seamlessly integrate empathy into everyday interactions with youth by creating strong connections, listening to young people, and understanding how kids’ experiences impact how they show up to practices and events.

In this interactive workshop, participants will learn about:

  • The impact of stress on young people
  • The role of empathetic coaches/adults
  • How each coach’s own experience impacts their relationships with youth
  • The “PACT” – PCA’s framework for applying empathy
  • How to apply the “PACT” action steps

We hope you will join us on June 8 as we celebrate the role of parks and recreation in creating healthy communities! For additional information and resources on Family Health & Fitness Day, please visit or contact me.

Cina Makres (she/her) is a program specialist at NRPA.