Parks are incredibly versatile, fun areas for everyone in a community. They’re perfect for children who want to play on a playground, family or friends who want to have a picnic, or dog owners who want to take their pets on a walk. Besides being a fun location for residents, parks indicate a lot about a community.
The ACSM American Fitness Index considers a lot of factors when evaluating health and fitness, and the different implications of community parks are one of the areas considered by the rankings.
What parks say about a community:
||How much a community spends on creating and maintaining parks suggests how dedicated that community is to providing safe and affordable places for its residents to be physically active.
|Parkland as a percent of the community land area
||The amount of parks in comparison to the total land area of the community indicates whether or not there is a safe and affordable place conveniently located for residents of the community.
|Percent of community that are within a 10 minute walk to a park
|Number of dog parks in a community
||Dog parks are a specific type of park that suggest dog owners are walking with their dogs, a good source of fitness.
Parks are an extremely valuable asset for a community, and they should be considered with importance.
Need help improving parks?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Park Service (NPS) created a new tool to assist communities with parks. The Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook: A Tool for Planners, Parks and Recreational Professionals, and Health Practitioners is a guide to assist in the development and improvement of parks.
This tool emphasizes the health benefits of parks and includes five sections: community health profile, site information, site planning, park and trail system planning, and monitoring and evaluation.
Whether you are interested in learning more about parks and their implications regarding public health or you are an official involved in maintaining or developing parks, this tool is of great use to you. Even if you are just a regular park-goer, it is to your benefit to be knowledgeable of the parks in your community.
Next time you visit the park in your neighborhood, think about what it brings to your community.
Walking is a simple and easy way to add physical activity to daily schedules and since it’s free, it’s available to everybody. Since the first edition of the ACSM American Fitness Index® data report, ACSM has recognized the importance of walking for a healthy lifestyle.
While the Fitness Index has always taken the number of people who walk to work as part of its methodology, it hasn’t considered walking trips to amenities such as grocery stores, shops and school.
New Walk Score® Ranking Indicator
For the latest edition of the data report, ACSM added a new walking indicator: Walk Score® rankings. Walk Score uses a point-based system to measure the walkability of a neighborhood.
Multiple studies show that people living in walkable neighborhoods and cities are more likely to reach the recommended amount of physical activity because they can travel by foot to work, shop, eat, play or pray.
Most Walkable Cities
According to the latest report from Walk Score, the top five cities for walking are:
1. New York
2. San Francisco
Washington D.C., which finished first in the 2014 data report, has the seventh best Walk Score ranking. Learn your neighborhood’s Walk Score® ranking at WalkScore.com.
Every Body Walk!
ACSM is also working with Kaiser Permanente to drive awareness of the Every Body Walk! 30 Minutes to Better Health initiative to clinicians and other health professionals. Every Body Walk! is a campaign aimed at getting more Americans up and moving. To learn more visit everybodywalk.org.
Since 1985, America has celebrated July as the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month. The American Fitness Index recognizes the importance of community parks and recreational areas and the role they play as a contributing environmental indicator for better health and physical activity.
OUT is IN
A study conducted for the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) found that 3 in 10 U.S. adults do not spend time outdoors on a daily basis. NRPA wants to break that trend with their OUT is IN campaign. The program emphasizes how parks and recreation services are vital assets for our communities in battling the obesity epidemic and chronic disease.
Get out there and play!
Taking advantage of your local public park is a simple and economical way to improve your physical fitness. Parks offer children and adults an opportunity to engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity during their visit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having access to parks and playgrounds can initiate other healthy lifestyle choices.
What are some other ways parks can promote health?
Want to see first hand what parks and recreation can do to benefit your health? The Trust for Public Land created this fun video on how your local park makes an impact on your health and the health of your community.