Parks Promoting Physical Activity: Synthesis of Findings From Interventions in Seven National Parks

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Christine M. Hoehner
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Ross C. Brownson
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Diana Allen
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James Gramann
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Timothy K. Behrens
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Myron F. Floyd
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Jessica Leahy
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Joseph B. Liddle
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David Smaldone
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Diara D. Spain
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Daniel R. Tardona
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Nicholas P. Ruthmann
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Rachel L. Seiler
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Byron W. Yount
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Background:

We synthesized the results of 7 National Park Service pilot interventions designed to increase awareness of the health benefits from participation in recreation at national parks and to increase physical activity by park visitors.

Methods:

A content analysis was conducted of the final evaluation reports of the 7 participating parks. Pooled data were also analyzed from a standardized trail-intercept survey administered in 3 parks.

Results:

The theme of new and diverse partnerships was the most common benefit reported across the 7 sites. The 2 parks that focused on youth showed evidence of an increase in awareness of the benefits of physical activity. Many of the other sites found high levels of awareness at baseline (approaching 90%), suggesting little room for improvement. Five of the 7 projects showed evidence of an increase in physical activity that was associated with the intervention activities. Multivariate analyses suggested that the media exposure contributed to a small but significant increase in awareness of the importance of physical activity (6%) and number of active visits (7%).

Conclusions:

Enhancements and replication of these programs represents a promising opportunity for improving partnerships between public health and recreation to increase physical activity.

Hoehner is with the Dept of Surgery and Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Brownson is with the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, George Warren Brown School of Social Work and the Dept of Surgery and Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Allen is with the Dept of the Interior, National Park Service, St. Louis, MO. Gramann is with the Dept of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. Behrens is with the Dept of Health Sciences, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Floyd is with the Dept of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. Leahy is with the School of Forest Resources, University of Maine. Liddle is with the University of Alaska Southeast. Smaldone is with the Dept of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources Program, Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Virginia University. Spain is with the Dept of Natural Sciences and Math, Dominican University of California. Tardona is with the United States National Park Service, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Ruthmann is with the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Seiler is with the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, Saint Louis University School of Public Health, St. Louis, MO. Yount is with the Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

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