This study in Minneapolis, Minnesota, finds that commuting rates by bicycle increased substantially between 2000 and 2010 once 10 miles of paved paths separated from roadways were created. Using careful statistical methods, they show that neighborhoods closest to the new paths and with the most commuting routes crossing the paths had the greatest increases in bike commuting rates.
In northwest Arkansas, a substantial investment in paved and unpaved trails has contributed substantially to the region’s well-being (measured in improved health) and economic performance (measured in visitor spending and employee retention). Evidenced by residents’ interest in living close to trails and willingness to pay more for homes near trails, cycling is an essential part of life in this region.
This large study of U.K. residents finds that those who walk or bike to work have significantly lower incidence of and mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Those who incorporate cycling into their commute had the greatest reduction in risk of disease incidence and mortality.
In Miami-Dade County, Florida, an afterschool, park-based program is effective in improving physical fitness among a sample of 52 children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Afterschool programs may be an effective strategy to increase physical activity among disabled children, who tend to be less physically active than their non-disabled peers.
A formal walking program for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) finds that low-intensity walks in an urban park are associated with significantly greater improvement in cognitive function than similar walks in residential or downtown settings. The improvements measured are on par with improvements associated with the most typical medications prescribed for ADHD, and cognitive performance for participants after walking is comparable to the average performance of children who have not been diagnosed with ADHD.
In Miami-Dade County, Florida, researchers evaluated the structure of a pilot project connecting children, families, and their pediatricians to a park-based afterschool program. This study describes important factors encouraging ongoing support from participating families and pediatricians, as well as ways to measure the effectiveness of prescription parks programs.
A daily afterschool program in Miami-Dade County, Florida observes significant decreases in body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure between the beginning and end of the school year. Findings from this research suggest consistent, long-term afterschool programs can effectively reduce childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease risk.
In this large-scale study of participants in a formal walking program in the U.K., researchers find that participants in nature-based group walks are less likely to report experiencing depression, perceived stress, and negative affect, and report greater overall mental well-being. By comparing a large sample of participants and non-participants over time, the authors overcome some inherent challenges in measuring the effectiveness of these types of programs.
In Taos, New Mexico, Hispanic residents and low-income residents are less likely to have used trails during the previous year, but those who have used trails during the previous year use them just as often as other (non-Hispanic) residents. Among low-income residents, those with a park or trail within a 10-minute walk of their house were 50 percent more likely to have used trails during the previous year.
By following a large sample of children over time, this study demonstrates that children who participate in recreation programs, or who live a walkable distance from parks, are much less likely to be obese or overweight. These benefits can be achieved through formal parks and programs, but also through accessible green space or other small, informal places that encourage informal play.
Research has established that low-income people tend to have higher mortality rates than high-income residents. This study across all of England demonstrates that this gap in mortality rate is about half the size in areas with the most green space compared to areas with the least green space.
At a sample of recreation centers in southern California, researchers find that several measures of facility condition and amenities are better in high-income neighborhoods relative to low-income neighborhoods. The likelihood that a child uses the recreation center increases 23 percent for each $10,000 increase in neighborhood income, but the authors do not find a relationship between the quality of the facility and participation rates.
A large study of 50 urban parks in Southern California measures park use by nearby residents and other users across high-, medium-, and low-poverty areas, finding that parks are used less in high-poverty areas. Those who do use parks in high-poverty areas, however, on average use the parks more per week, are more likely to see familiar people in the parks, and use the parks more when there are more staff present.
In rural Nova Scotia, a proposed trail is expected to increase substantially the amount of physical activity of local residents, with over half of respondents predicting increased physical activity due to the trail. For every dollar spent constructing the trail, it is expected to generate at least $2 in avoided health care costs.
A media campaign to promote a trails information site in Las Vegas, Nevada appears to have significantly increased trail use across most trails studied. The size of the gain in trail use appears to be independent of trail lighting, landscaping, and trail length.
In Durham, North Carolina, a bicycle-pedestrian bridge was built to connect two previously separate segments of a regional trail, leading to a 133 percent increase in trail use after its construction. This new connection allows the researchers to demonstrate a substantial increase in physical activity attributable to the bridge, with significant public health benefits for trail users.
Combining data from 10 U.K. studies, researchers demonstrated statistically significant improvements in self-esteem and mood after participants exercised outside in a natural setting. Although all cohorts and types of settings experienced improvements, the greatest gains are visible after short duration, light exercise, and among the mentally ill.
Trails in Lincoln, Nebraska have the potential to generate large benefits for trail users in terms of avoided medical costs. These benefits may significantly outweigh the per capita cost of trail construction and maintenance. However, due to simplifying assumptions made regarding both benefits and costs, the cost-benefit ratios are unreliable.
This study found that bicycling in Michigan generates $224 million annually through retail spending, manufacturing, and event and tourism spending. Additionally, the improved health of those who commute to work by bicycle in the state is associated with up to $256 million in avoided annual health care costs.
This study found that older women in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania walk more overall if they live within walking distance of a trail, and those who use trails use them at least twice per week. Proximity to trails had the strongest relationship with increased walking among 14 neighborhood destinations, including parks, retail establishments, and public services.