Study: Investing in outreach can make park users more active

Irvine gateway

Josie Huang, KPCC

A study by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that parks can increase their patrons' activity levels through marketing and outreach. (File photo)

A  study released by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on Thursday suggests that small investments by parks in marketing and outreach can increase  park visitors' physical activity.

Researchers looked at 50 parks across Los Angeles. Two-thirds of the parks received outreach training and $4,000 apiece to improve communication about their services. 

Physical activity performed by patrons at those parks increased by seven to 12 percent when compared to parks that made no changes. 

While that might not seem very high, researchers said any increase goes against the current trend.

"The trend is that park use and physical activity is going down, and when we do these kinds of interventions, we can stop that decline and maybe even increase slightly the amount of physical activity in parks," said Deborah Cohen, the study's lead author. 

The parks were largely free to use the funds as they wanted. Most of the money went to improving signage, including things like banners, bulletin boards, floor mats, staff shirts and walking path signs. Other money was spent on promotional incentives and hiring group activity instructors. 

The biggest increase in activity was in non-Hispanic white youth who were already using the parks. 

Researchers said the increases were also notable because they occurred during a time that park budgets were seeing big cuts.

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