Editor's Desk - April 2009
Find a printable version here

The Great Outdoors


arks and playgrounds have earned a lot of praise over the years. Access to playgrounds at recess, before and after school, and at other free times, gives kids a chance to expand their physical abilities—that's obvious. But playgrounds also give children a chance to develop socially, as they interact with other kids, and intellectually, as they solve problems and challenge themselves to go beyond what they could do last week.

And open, green spaces have repeatedly been shown to deliver benefits to people of all ages, including children. Kids who are exposed to more green space do better in school, and a recent Canadian study shows that the presence of a park nearby is strongly associated with more walking for girls and boys.

The physical benefits of parks and playgrounds can't be overstated in a time when children and adults alike in America are suffering from ever-rising rates of overweight and obesity—and the increase in chronic, preventable diseases that goes hand-in-hand with such a development.

"Obesity in children and adolescents has tripled in the past 20 or so years," said Tracie A. Barnett, Ph.D., lead author of the Canadian study on parks and walking, and a researcher at Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and Universite de Montreal. "Although obesity has many causes, this relatively sudden and steep increase suggests that the drivers of the obesity epidemic are largely environmental rather than biological or genetic in nature."

As a recreation, sports or fitness facility director, you know how much impact you can have on these trends. This month, we take a special look at site planning and playground trends to help you ensure your outdoor sites meet the needs of your community. We also look at specific types of park furnishings—from waste receptacles to drinking fountains, and their prevalent materials—to help you make the right decisions in every aspect of designing and furnishing your site.

Now go out and play!

Emily Tipping
Editorial Director, Recreation Management