In accordance with National Park and Recreation Month, the ISSA is encouraging use of local parks and appreciation of recreational activities in order to stress their importance, particularly in urban and suburban areas.
Community designs are vital to insure convenient access to places where people can exercise. Currently, less than 7 percent of all trips occur on foot or bicycle, while nearly 90 percent are made by automobile. Increasing the role of walking and cycling in daily commutes could have a major impact on longevity and risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. It is in this way that local parks play a vital role. They are the free (or low-cost) versions of an exercise center. Open, outdoor spaces promote physical activity, whether it is walking, cycling, or team sports. Some parks even have outdoor fitness installments that allow locals to execute an entire strengthening routine.
In addition, changing population mindsets is critical for increasing physical activity patterns. For example, more than 25 percent of trips are less than 1 mile, yet more than 75 percent are made by automobile. High-density urban environments have many stores and even parks in close proximity, which makes walking possible and desirable. Urban planners are finding that providing pedestrians and bicyclists with not only better access to the transportation network but open park and recreation areas are good indicators of community cohesiveness, quality of life, and overall community health.
It is critical that plans for increasing physical activity levels of American citizens be integrated into neighborhood parks and recreation planning. Even small changes in activity patterns could have a major impact on public health.