Arecent study done by the RAND Corporation showed that moderate increases inmarketing and community outreach programs can increase physical activity withinpublic parks. As public parks areaccessible to the entire community, this is a cost-effective way to improve theoverall health of a community and use local parks and recreational facilitiesto their full purpose.
Simplyputting up a few signs around the park and encouraging the community to watchfor them can increase a citizen’s physical activity by 7-12 percent. During the study, scientist divided parksinto three groups at random, with one group of directors putting $4,000 towardadvertising exercise classes or promoting walking paths within the park.
Thesecond group allocated the budget toward more general promotional marketingabout the parks without mentioning the features which could encourage activity,while the third group did not receive a budget for marketing.
Overthe five year span of the study, 32 of the 33 parks in group one saw morepeople come to the park and engage in physical activities such as walking,biking, or using various park facilities for exercise. In group two, park monitors saw a moderateincrease in use of facilities for those who already came to the parks on aregular basis, and group three saw no change in park usage.
Theresults of this study also come at a time when many U.S. cities are cuttingtheir parks and recreation budget in light of funding other programs. With a recent shift in the emphasis onphysical activity, and the knowledge that the majority of citizens do not meetthe recommended 150 minutes per week of activity, perhaps it would be wiser toprovide the parks a budget and guidelines for marketing.
Hopefully,the results of the study, which was released by the American Journal ofPreventive Medicine, will change the focus of park efforts to engage citizensto use their facilities for exercise and enjoyment rather than let parkfacilities sit empty and unused.
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Director of Marketing / Media & PR