Michelle Obama has rolled out the report to the president from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. While many news report have focused on the nutritional recommendations, the report–available on the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign website— also recognizes the crucial role of exercise in keeping children fit and the importance of parks in providing a venue for that exercise.
Parks and playgrounds in a community can provide opportunities to run and play and may increase unstructured physical activity. If children can easily access safe parks and playgrounds in good repair, they are more likely to engage in recreational physical activity there.
National, state, and local parks are an ideal environment to be physically active, and increased access to parks is proven to promote physical activity among children and adolescents. In addition to encouraging physical activity, parks and other natural landscapes can provide recreational experiences, opportunities to learn and grow, and places of quiet refuge.
Among the report’s several recommendations dealing with parks:
Increase the number of safe and accessible parks and playgrounds, particularly in underserved and low-income communities.
The report recommends targeting federal funds to this purpose and the “development or renovation of playgrounds to include less asphalt and more natural terrain, so as to foster unstructured, ‘natural’ play.”
It’s great to have this recognition for the crucial role parks can play in kids health. There is more information on this topic on TPL’s website, including a 2007 report on the health benefits of parks and a story from Land&People magazine.