Before You Go - April 2011
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Before You Go…

Investment for Better Health
Research Shows Recreational Funding Affects Overall Physical Fitness

Funding for parks and recreational services does make a difference when it comes to a person's overall health and fitness, not to mention a less strained health care system, according to research from Penn State University.

The research—commissioned by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and led by Dr. John L. Crompton of Texas A&M University—consists of five monographs that studied the broad and fundamental benefits of parks and recreation on local communities, with a focus on stimulating physical activity, youth development, alleviating stress and crime, improving air quality, and measuring the economic impact of park and recreation services.

One of the research papers, titled, "The Benefits of Physical Activity: The Scientific Evidence," was compiled by Andrew J. Mowen, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State, and Geoffrey Godbey, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State, and president of Next Consulting, a company concerned with re-positioning leisure and tourism services for the near future.

"There is a growing body of evidence directly correlated to health outcomes. Increasingly, we're going to have to focus on what those benefits are and the outcome for our citizens. There are economic benefits, social benefits and health benefits," Mowen said. "That was really the impetus for the NRPA. We know there are a lot of studies, and we wanted to compile information into a comprehensive document for policy makers and lay practitioners."

Mowen and Godbey's paper discussed the physical activity benefits provided by park and recreation services, stating that the "vast majority of the public uses park and recreation services, and research suggests an even higher proportion would use them if they were more adequately funded. A growing body of research demonstrates that the cumulative amount of physical activity (exercise) obtained from park and recreation agencies is huge and provides a wide variety of health benefits."

The report also confirmed that "investing in park and recreation services increases physical activity benefits. There is a strong relationship between how much money is spent to provide such services and the amount of physical activity health benefits people receive. You get what you pay for. This is true since, on average, more spending means more recreation areas and facilities (as well as proper maintenance for those places), more recreation programs that involve physical activity, more close-to-home opportunities, more provisions for people with disabilities and higher quality."