Summary points to support the importance of parks with academic references

Evidence has shown that park users are more likely to achieve recommended levels of physical activity compared with non-users.

  • McCormack GR, Rock M, Toohey AM, Hignell D. Characteristics of urban parks associated with park use and physical activity: A review of qualitative research. Health & Place. 2010;16(4):712-26.

For children and adolescents, living within 800m of parks and sports centres increases the likelihood that they will use these facilities, and walk or cycle to and from them.

  • Epstein LH, Raja S, Gold SS, Paluch RA, Pak Y, Roemmich JN. Reducing Sedentary Behavior: The Relationship Between Park Area and the Physical Activity of Youth. Psychol Sci. 2006;17(8):654-9.

There is some evidence indicating that living in closer proximity to large, attractive public open spaces, is associated with being physically active in young people and adults.

  •  Wood L, K M. What makes a good play area for children? . Centre for the Built Environment and Health, The University of Western Australia., 2010.
  • Epstein LH, Raja S, Gold SS, Paluch RA, Pak Y, Roemmich JN. Reducing Sedentary Behavior: The Relationship Between Park Area and the Physical Activity of Youth. Psychol Sci. 2006;17(8):654-9.

There is evidence associating the presence of attractive public open space with enhanced mental health for adults, and that access to nature and green space assists with children’s mental health.

The provision of playgrounds in parks also provides opportunities for children to engage in play activities which promotes learning about vital social skills such as turn-taking, sharing, negotiation and leadership in addition to providing opportunities for physical activity.

  • Planet Ark. Climbing Trees: Getting Aussie Kids  Back Outdoors. 2011.

The provision of natural playgrounds also helps to improve many aspects of emotional wellbeing, including minimising anxiety, repression, aggression and sleep problems and improving social behaviours.

The presence of supportive infrastructure within parks such as footpaths, wooded areas, constructed and natural trails and sports facilities or equipment has been associated with park use and physical activity and walking within parks.

  • McCormack GR, Rock M, Toohey AM, Hignell D. Characteristics of urban parks associated with park use and physical activity: A review of qualitative research. Health & Place. 2010;16(4):712-26.
  • Mowen A. Research Synthesis: Parks, Playgrounds and Active Living. 2010.
  • Epstein LH, Raja S, Gold SS, Paluch RA, Pak Y, Roemmich JN. Reducing Sedentary Behavior: The Relationship Between Park Area and the Physical Activity of Youth. Psychol Sci. 2006;17(8):654-9.
  • Sugiyama T, Francis J, Middleton NJ, Owen N, Giles-Corti B. Associations Between Recreational Walking and Attractiveness, Size, and Proximity of Neighborhood Open Spaces. American Journal of Public Health. 2010;100(9):1752-7.

The presence of aesthetic features such as trees and bushes, gardens, grass (i.e. irrigated lawns), flowers, natural settings and water features, as well as the availability of amenities such as toilets, picnic tables as well as the condition and maintenance of park facilities and equipment has also been identified as important for park use.

  • Roemmich JN, Epstein LH, Raja S, Yin L, Robinson J, Winiewicz D. Association of access to parks and recreational facilities with the physical activity of young children. Preventive Medicine. 2006;43(6):437-41.
  • McCormack GR, Rock M, Toohey AM, Hignell D. Characteristics of urban parks associated with park use and physical activity: A review of qualitative research. Health & Place. 2010;16(4):712-26.
  • Giles-Corti B, Broomhall MH, Knuiman M, Collins C, Douglas K, Ng K, et al. Increasing walking: How important is distance to, attractiveness, and size of public open space? American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2005;28(2, Supplement 2):169-76.

Perceived park aesthetics, condition and safety have also been associated with park visitation and physical activity levels within parks.

  • Mowen A. Research Synthesis: Parks, Playgrounds and Active Living. 2010.

Attractive park aesthetics appears to promote recreational walking, whereas physical incivilities appear to deter recreational walking for adults and older adults.

  • Kaczynski AT, Potwarka LR, Saelens BE. Association of Park Size, Distance, and Features With Physical Activity in Neighborhood Parks. American Journal of Public Health. 2008;98(8):1451-6.
  • Sugiyama T, Ward Thompson C. Associations between characteristics of neighbourhood open space and older people’s walking. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 2008;7(1):41-51.

The inclusion of community gardens in public open spaces can positively influence diet, providing greater access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Community Gardens 2010 [cited 2013 22/04/2013]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/healthyfood/community.htm.
  • Morris J. Garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum improves fourth-grade school children’s knowledge of nutrition and preferences for some vegetables. Journal of thew American Dietetic Association. 2002;102:1-3.
  • Somerset S, Ball R, Flett M, Geissman R. School-based community gardens: Re-establishing healthy relationships with food. Journal of the HEIA. 2005;12(2):25-33.

Other benefits of community gardens include improved physical fitness through engaging in physical activity associated with gardening, improved social activity and social connections through the sharing of produce with neighbours, and stress relief, relaxation and improved mental health.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Community Gardens 2010 [cited 2013 22/04/2013]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/healthyfood/community.htm.
  • Blair D, Giesecke CC, Sherman S. A dietary, social and economic evaluation of the Philadelphia urban gardening project. Journal of Nutrition Education. 1991 7//;23(4):161-7.
  • Armstrong D. A survey of community gardens in upstate New York: implications for health promotion and community development. Health Place. 2001 Dec;6(4):319-27.

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