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Physical activity in parks can be boosted by modest marketing
Date:10/19/2013

Modest increases in marketing and outreach to local communities can increase the amount of physical activity that occurs in parks, providing a cost-effective way to potentially improve a community's health, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The project, which examined 50 parks across Los Angeles, found that simple interventions such as increased signage boosted physical activity by 7 to 12 percent over the study period in relation to parks that did not make changes. The findings are published online by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"The study shows that environmental cues influence and change individual behavior, including physical behavior," said Dr. Deborah A. Cohen, the study's lead author and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "When physical activity opportunities and reminders become more obvious, whether they are overt signs or notices for classes or new walking paths, they may lead people to becoming more active, especially if they are already in a park."

Although most Americans live in a community with a network of parks and recreation facilities suited to exercise, most do not meet the national guidelines for physical activity. Those recommendations suggest adults engage in physical activity for 150 minutes per week, while children should do so for 60 minutes per day.

An increase in physical activity among people in Finland over the past few decades has been attributed, in part, to an increased focus on local parks and sports facilities. In contrast, many U.S. municipalities -- including Los Angeles -- have trimmed support for public physical activity programs and parks.

RAND researchers wanted to examine whether, given limited resources, parks could adjust their programming and outreach efforts to increase activity if they had better information about local use and activity preferences. The second question was whether the involvement of
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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