-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Even small marketing efforts
at parks can have an effect on the health fitness of local
communities, according to a new study.
Minor improvements to signage and visual reminders about park
activities are a cost-effective way to increase park usage and
boost physical activity, researchers found.
"The study shows that environmental cues influence and change individual behavior, including physical behavior," study lead author Dr. Deborah Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the nonprofit research organization RAND Corp., said in a news release.
"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," Cohen said.
The study involved 50 parks in Los Angeles that had a recreation
center and a full-time staff. The parks were divided into three
groups. In the first group, each park director was given $4,000 to
spend on marketing or outreach programs. They also collaborated
with the researchers to figure out how to attract more people and
boost their level of physical activity.
In the second group, the research team worked with each park
director and an existing local park advisory board to compile
information on park usage and determine how to use their marketing
budgets. The third group of parks received no additional support in
developing a new marketing or outreach program.
Each park was then monitored to assess the physical-activity
levels of the people who used it from 2007 to 2012. The researchers
found that just small increases in marketing strategies increased
physical activity by 7 percent to 12 percent during the course of
the study, compared to parks that didn't make any changes to their
Among the parks that received funding, most of the money was
spent on signage improvements that encouraged people to engage in
park-sponsored activities. The researchers said there wasn't a
significant difference in the increase in physical activity between
the parks that collaborated with an advisory board and those that
The study, which was published online Oct. 17 in the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed that the
biggest increase in activity was among those who already used the
park. The researchers concluded that adding more signs and
reminders in areas outside the park could help bring new people to
Although most Americans have access to a network of parks and
recreation facilities where they can exercise, the researchers said
most do not meet the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
more information on the
health benefits of exercise.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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