Participation in outdoor recreation provides a range of well-documented benefits from increased mental well-being in a natural environment, to the healthy benefits derived from physical activities. Parks are an ideal place to promote such outdoor physical activity, but according to a systematic literature review of all observational studies on the subject, they are seldom being used for this purpose.

Study findings published this month in Preventive Medicine indicate that about half of park users are engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity. However, in the U.S., few older adults use parks compared to parks in China and Taiwan. About the same amount of females and males were observed in parks, with men more physically active than females.

“Results of this study indicate that in the U.S., we need to innovatively design parks in such a way to increase use by older adults and get women more active,” according to Dean Jay Maddock of the Texas A&M School of Public Health and co-author of the study.

The study was conducted through the American Academy of Health Behavior Research Scholar Mentoring program where Rodney Joseph, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow from Arizona State University was paired with Maddock.

A total of 26 peer-reviewed studies were reviewed, with the majority conducted within the U.S.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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