Nothing increases park use and physical activity as much as programming—providing supervised activities to help people make use of the space. Each additional supervised activity increases park use by 48 percent and physical activity by 37 percent. Unfortunately, programs in neighborhood parks are few and far between—especially in parks in high-poverty neighborhoods. Here are some ways to change that.

Programming for Seniors
Seniors age 60 and above comprise 18 percent of the population but only 4 percent of neighborhood park users. Given that physical activity can have immediate benefits for older folks in preventing or mitigating the impact of chronic diseases, park systems should do everything possible to get seniors active. That includes building better walking trails and adding enhanced programming to provide structure, encouragement, companionship and fun.

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Image credit Allana Wesley White

Programming for Children
Not surprisingly, children’s use of parks is disproportionately high—what is a park without children? But they, too, greatly benefit from programming, particularly if it includes activities that build physical coordination and social interaction. Parks can also play a critical role fighting hunger during the summer, when there is no free school lunch, by coordinating activities with free summer lunch programs.

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Image credit Jenna Stamm

Programming for Pre-Teen and Teen Girls 
Females are underrepresented in parks, even counting mothers taking young children. Among teenagers, boys outnumber girls 65 to 35 percent. As for active sports, it’s even worse: only 8 out of every 100 girls play sports in neighborhood parks, and for teen girls it’s only 4 out of every 100. Teen and pre-teen girls need particular attention when it comes to park programming. 

Additional Resources
City Parks Alliance: Active Parks, Healthy Cities: Recommendations From the National Study of Neighborhood Parks
RAND Corporation: How Can Neighborhood Parks Be Used to Increase Physical Activity?
City Parks Alliance, The Trust for Public Land, The Rand Corporation: The First National Study of Neighborhood Parks