From Fitness Zones to the Medical Mile

From Fitness Zones to the Medical Mile: How Urban Park Systems Can Best Promote Health and Wellness details more than 75 innovative features and programs-including 14 case studies-that maximize a park's ability to promote physical activity and improve mental health. The report documents the major factors that stimulate public use of city parks, including: structured programming of sports and exercise; a reduction of automobile traffic within parks to help promote running, walking, cycling and skating; an improvement in signage to assist with wayfinding and to promote safety; the design of parks and trails to serve multiple purposeful functions in people's day-to-day lives; and an increase in partnerships between park agencies and medical offices.

Forty-nine percent of Americans get less than the minimum recommended amount of physical activity, and fully 36 percent of U.S. adults engage in no leisure-time physical activity at all. It is well established that physical activity helps prevent obesity and related medical problems. And there is mounting evidence that providing places to exercise-parks, primarily-can improve health. The mere presence of a park, however, does not guarantee a healthier population. Thousands of acres of city parks are not, for one reason or another, serving the important purpose of helping people become healthier.

Funded through generous grants from the Ittleson Foundation, PlayCore, Inc., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report is intended for use by park professionals and advocates, concerned citizens, government leaders, and health officials. Published 2011.