The CityParks Blog recently published an article about the health benefits of well-activated and frequently-used neighborhood parks.
The author, Nelson Beckford, points out that physical inactivity is responsible for 11% of all deaths in the United States. (That’s a really high number!).
However, neighborhood parks can be a simple and effective tool to improve people’s health by getting us physically moving. A National Study of Neighborhood Parks recently looked at the best ways to encourage more people to use neighborhood parks for physical activity. The study found that:
When parks are actively programmed with many events, usage increases. (By 48% in this study).
Parks with walking loops attract more users, especially seniors and runners. (80% more users, double the seniors and 90% higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in this study).
Marketing, outreach and signage matter – causing a 62% increase in users and a 63% increase in physical activity.
Well-used parks are much more likely to have a vocal constituency to support them, and park agencies that measure park use are better positioned to justify public spending to maintain and enhance them.
Neighborhoods in Ward 7 and Ward 8 in DC already suffer from worse public health indicators than other parts of the District. If organizations like those of us in APACC can continue to collaborate with the National Park Service and other park managers to improve and advertise the trails and programs in Anacostia Park, Kingman Island, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and more, residents of Ward 7 and Ward 8 could have a lot to gain.
Erin Garnaas-Holmes is the Ambassador to the Anacostia Watershed Urban Waters Partnership with the Anacostia Waterfront Trust, an APACC member.