Health-Based Benefits of Parks, Trails, and Open Space
Researchers document many benefits of regular exercise provided by community trails
Quotations from a variety of literature in the outdoor recreation and economics field:
Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails, and Greenway Corridors., Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. Department of the Interior. National Park Service, Western Region, San Francisco California.
"People who exercise regularly have 14 percent lower claims against their medical insurance, 30 percent fewer days in the hospital, and have 41 percent fewer claims greater than $5,000 ("Feasibility Study: Corporate Wellness Program", City of San Jose Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Services, 1988).
"Exercise derived from recreational activities lessens health related problems and subsequent health care costs. Every year, premature deaths costs American companies an estimated 132 million lost work days at a price tag of $25 billion. Finding and training replacements costs industry more than $700 million each year. In addition, American businesses lose an estimated $3 billion every year because of employee health problems (National Park Service, 1983)."
The Case for Urban Open Space. Poole, William. 1993. Draft report prepared for Trust for Public Land, San Francisco, California.
"One key link between parks and health might be the opportunity for regular exercise and to escape what Olmsted called 'jar of the streets.' Exercise helps maintain healthy bones and muscles, builds cardiovascular fitness and relieves the psychological and physiological stress long linked to poor health. The chance to escape the city's noise and bustle also relieves stress, which might otherwise be expressed through aggression or the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Parks also contribute to public health by helping to mitigate air pollution, noise and other environmental stressors, and by acting as green buffers between industrial areas and residential neighborhoods."
"As the federal government struggles to trim the nation's health-care costs it cannot afford to ignore relatively inexpensive environmental changes that may foster health in millions of Americans for years to come."
The Contribution of Recreation and Parks to Reducing Health Care Costs: From Theory to Practice. Godbey, Geoffrey. 1993. In Trends: Justifying Recreation and Parks to Decision Makers, v. 30, no. 4.
"...the U.S. currently spends more for health care than any nation on earth--14 percent of our Gross National Product... The federal government deficit currently amounts to about $17,000 per person. With huge and mounting debt in every sector and a population which is both aging rapidly and increasingly dependent, curtailing health care costs will be a priority of government and doing this will involve reinventing our notions of what constitutes efficient and effective health care. Emphasis will be on prevention. During this process, parks and recreation has the opportunity to become a significant factor in the wellness revolution. Doing this will involve: reconceptualizing what they do, documenting the wellness benefits of services and implementing benefits based management."
"At the municipal level, there are already some precedents for state or local health agencies providing funding targeted to specific facilities or services of recreation and park agencies which have measurable wellness outcomes. The Healthy People 2000 statement of national opportunities, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and involving a coalition or 22 expert working groups, specifically targeted increases in community availability and accessibility of physical activity and fitness facilities. These include hiking, biking, and fitness trails, public swimming pools, and acres of park and recreation open space."
"In summary, recreation and park services provide opportunities to individuals which have positive health benefits. These effects can and must be measured and analyzed in terms of cost savings in pubic health expenditures. Doing so will often involve collaborative efforts with public health agencies. While educators and professionals are now involved in the effort to measure benefits associated with recreation and parks... this measurement process must proceed from a paradigm which expresses the outputs or consequences of such services. That paradigm is wellness."
An American Network of Parks and Open Space: Creating a Conservation and Recreation Legacy. Texas Parks and Wildlife and the National Park Service. August 1994.
"we know that the United States spends more for health care than any other nation on earth--$898 billion in 1993, or an estimated $3,358 per person14 percent of our gross national product. We have also learned that in order to keep costs down, future health care strategies must focus on prevention.
The most important prescriptions for creating effective preventative care are regular exercise and a moderate diet. According to the 1990 Healthy People 2000 report, there is increasing evidence that light to moderate physical activity, often associated with recreation behavior, can have significant health benefits. The report recommends several appropriate actions, including significant investments in recreation resources, such as areas for hiking, biking and swimming."
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Updated March 16, 2007