Park Programming and Better HealthResearch shows that recreation programs in parks can change the way that people interact with their environment. By providing the community with ways to get involved with and stay invested in its green spaces, effective park programming brings many benefits to health and wellbeing for residents.

The Facts

  • Park and recreation agencies currently provide critical services for millions of seniors. Today, 70 percent of park and recreation agencies offer programs targeted at senior citizens, and the average agency serves over 160 seniors annually.

  • Park and recreation agencies currently provide millions of Americans access to healthy and nutritious food. According to PRORAGIS, more than 50 percent of agencies administer community garden programs. Nearly 25 percent of agencies administer or manage farmers’ markets, and 63 percent rent or permit space for people to grow healthy foods.

  • When Boston made park health programming highly visible by hiring veterans to teach free health classes in 18 city parks a year, park attendance dramatically increased during the summer months.

  • In Los Angeles, 38% of residents said they got most of their exercise by using parks and parks programming.

  • Neighborhood parks have the potential to function as a nucleus of neighborhood activity, where residents can gather for social events, recreational activities, and meetings about community issues, increasing social interaction. Individuals realize physical activity-related health benefits. Collective efficacy could affect individuals who don't visit a park.

  • Neighborhood parks contribute substantially to moderate to vigorous physical activity. This contribution may depend less on size and facilities than on “demand goods” – programming and activities – that draw users to a park.

  • Having events at the park, including sports competitions and other attractions, appears to be the strongest correlate of park use and community-level physical activity.

  • Park use results from a complex equation that includes not only higher quality recreation facilities but also programming, staffing, fees, hours of operation, marketing, outreach, and perhaps a host of other human factors.


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