Using local parks linked to health

  • Education
  • Sunday, 19 Feb 2017

Research shows people who use their local parks are healthier. — AFP

NEW United States’ research suggests that those who use their local parks and participate in recreation programmes are more likely to report higher levels of health than those who don't.

Carried out by researchers from Penn State University and commissioned by the National Recreation and Park Association, the team collected data in 1991 and 2015 which looked at Americans' use and perceptions of local parks and recreation services.

The researchers used telephone surveys to assess participants' use of their local parks, participation in organised recreation programmes, and self-rated health, surveying 1,305 individuals in 1991 and 1,144 in 2015.

Although previous research has looked at relationships between parks and physical activity, the study's authors claim it is the first on a national level in the US to look at whether the relationship between local park use, participation in recreation programmes, and self-rated health has strengthened over time in line with national efforts to promote healthier living.

Although the team didn't find a significant association between park use or programme participation and self-rated health in 1991, the results of the 2015 survey showed that those who frequently use their local parks or recreation programmes were more likely to self-report high levels of health through the SF-1 -- a measure of self-rated health frequently used by health organisations -- than non-frequent park users.

Co-author Dr Christopher Sciamanna said: “It was exciting to see a relationship with self-reported health, as this single question is strongly associated with risk of hospitalisation and death and is used nationally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to monitor the nation's health in its online resource.”

The team believe that the growing relationship between use of parks and recreation programmes and self-rated health between 1991 and 2015 is likely the result of broad national health promotion efforts across the US, with lead author Nicholas Pitas commenting that: “Based on this information, parks and recreational services should be considered a key part of America's health care system, as the connection of these services to health is becoming more evident over time. This study supports the importance of locally offered recreation services, and argues in favor of investing in local park facilities and recreation programming.” — Relaxnews

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