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By Robby Layton, Ph.D
Park and trail systems planners, public health professionals, and community leaders are committed to improving public health. And they know better than anyone that fewer than half of Americans are getting the recommended amounts of physical activity.
If your city is like most, parks and trails can be the secret sauce for healthy living. Being outside in natural settings reduces stress, increases social interactions, and improves environmental sustainability. All that plus giving people a chance for some physical activity!
Public Health Goals Accomplished with Parks and Trails
Here are a few ways to accomplish your public health goals with parks and trails:
- Develop parks and trails within a half mile of multi-family developments. This will give more residents options for active travel. Consider programs such as Complete Streets or Safe Routes to Parks.
- Create awareness of walkable access to park and trail entrances. Encourage people to be out of doors and active daily. The Step it Up! Partners Guide to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities is a great resource.
- Apply for grants and technical assistance programs to support access to parks and trails close to where people live. State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans may be available in your state. The Colorado SCORP program is excellent:
8 Facts You Need to Know to Effectively Use Parks and Trails to Improve Public Health
We've helped many planners and community leaders provide a healthier quality of life for their communities. If you need any assistance in improving aspects of public health in your town--physical, mental, social, economic, and environmental--leave us a comment below.
This blog is based on research conducted in 2014 and 2015 by North Carolina State University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Department in collaboration with the National Park Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.