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Why a Trip to the Park Is Good For Your Health

Lake Raleigh
Fall color at Lake Raleigh on Centennial Campus.

A trip to your local park is about more than just leisure…

According to Professor Jason Bocarro, a faculty member in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, there are a number of benefits to getting outdoors.

He says, “When people have access to parks, they tend to exercise more and be more physically active – There is strong empirical evidence that shows physical activity relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety, improves mood, and enhances psychological well-being.”

Additionally, he says that the experience of being in natural outdoor environments such as parks helps to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work, contributing to improved work performance and satisfaction.

For both children and adolescents, parks and playgrounds provide an opportunity for imagination and creativity, cognitive and intellectual development, and negotiating social relationships with other children. For adults and professionals, there are growing testimonies from business leaders such as Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson, that some of their most innovative ideas have come when they were outside of the office exercising in environments such as parks.

Parks also have important social and community development benefits. They make urban neighborhoods more livable; and provide a place where both adults and children can socialize, increasing people’s sense of community, says Bocarro.

Our Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management students know the value of spending time outdoors, and are doing their part to help educate people on the merits of getting moving and getting back to nature through accessible, relevant, and exciting programs.

In addition to advocating for outdoor environments, volunteering with programs such as National Park Services’ “Get Up, Get Out and Go” and helping to manage the nation’s parks and facilities, PRTM students are also developing innovative ways encourage outdoor activities.

One student, Laura Prudhomme, has just started a free paddle board meetup as a way to get people away from their stressful lives, computers and cell phones. She and her participants spend a few hours almost every week being active and enjoying nature. Participants have said that this program in particular has encouraged them to get involved in more outdoor opportunities.

Nationally, there are many movements and initiatives that encourage an active lifestyle as well.

Park prescriptions, a concept that links healthcare and public lands to treat or prevent health problems, is growing in popularity. Through this program, doctors are prescribing a trip to the park in an effort to to increase levels of physical activity and reduce stress. Local parks around the country have teamed up with the National Recreation and Park Association to successfully widen the use of park prescriptions.

The “Get Every Kid In A Park” program, endorsed by the National Park Foundation, the White House and the Federal Land Management agencies, provides all fourth-grade students and their families with free admission to all national parks, national forests and national wildlife refuges.

So, will you go to a local park today?