Better park signs can spur more people to exercise, study says –

Griffith Park

By Mary MacVean2:55 p.m. CDT, October 17, 2013If a city wants healthier residents, it might consider new signs in its parks and other simple measures, according to a Rand Corp. study out Thursday that indicates it can be inexpensive to get people to be more active.Given the widespread calls for Americans to exercise more, from the first lady to the corner gym, the researchers decided to see if they could increase use of and activity in local parks. They picked 50 parks in Los Angeles, gave some of them $4,000 apiece to spend in efforts to increase use of the parks, and then looked at what happened from 2007 to 2012The study found that spending on marketing and outreach increased physical activity by 7% to 12%, compared with parks that did not make changes. The results were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.The ideas behind the study were straightforward: “Given that parks are intended to serve local communities, successfully addressing the underutilization of parks may require community input and participation,” the authors wrote.The 50 parks were divided into three groups: In one, the park director worked with the researchers to try to get more people into the park and increase activity; in the second, the park director and a local park advisory board worked with the researchers; and in the third, the parks got no extra help.

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