Effects of Park-Based Interventions on Health-Related Outcomes
A Systematic Review
Published in: Preventive Medicine, Volume 147 (June 2021). doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106528
Posted on RAND.org on April 28, 2021
Increasing use of parks for physical activity has been proposed for improving population health, including mental health. Interventions that aim to increase park use and park-based physical activity include place-based interventions (e.g., park renovations) and person-based interventions (e.g., park-based walking or exercise classes). Using adapted methods from the Community Guide, a systematic review (search period through September 2019) was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of park-based interventions among adults. The primary outcomes of interest were health-related, including physical and mental health and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Twenty-seven studies that met review criteria were analyzed in 2019 and 2020. Seven person-based studies included generally small samples of specific populations and interventions involved mostly exercise programming in parks; all but one had an average quality rating as "high" and all had at least one statistically significant outcome. Of the 20 place-based interventions, 7 involved only 1 or 2 parks; however, 7 involved from 9 to 78 parks. Types of interventions were predominantly park renovations; only 5 involved park-based exercise programming. Most of the renovations were associated with increased park-level use and physical activity, however among those implementing programming, park-level effects were more modest. Less than half of the place-based intervention studies had an average quality rating of "high." The study of parks as sites for physical activity interventions is nascent. Hybrid methods that combine placed-based evaluations and cohort studies could inform how to best optimize policy, programming, design and management to promote health and well-being.