Healthy Parks Healthy People Resources

Explore this growing collection of toolkits, guides, and workbooks to see the impact of Healthy Parks Healthy People. You can download any of the documents on this page to see how parks are being put to work as a health resource for social, environmental, and financial benefits. Be sure to check back to this site often, as we are always continuing to add to our reference library.

For more information about how national parks are promoting health and wellness visit the Healthy Parks Healthy People home page.
Two children playing in water.

Nature for All

Connecting with Nature to Care for Ourselves and the Earth is available for download. This is a report on the importance of connecting with nature. At a time when the world is confronted with growing environmental challenges, better understanding the critical connection between people and nature is key to informing effective decision making and stimulating positive action across sectors. At a personal and societal level the evidence is strong and growing that people tend to be happier, healthier, and more productive, creative, active and engaged in community and civic life when nature is a meaningful part of their lives. They are also more likely to care for it.
Healthy Parks Healthy People 2.0 Strategy Plan
The Healthy Parks Healthy People 2.0 Strategy Plan is available for download. This five-year plan serves as a roadmap for the National Park Service to promote parks as cornerstones of people's health and wellbeing; bring about lasting change in Americans’ lifestyle choices, and forge deep and lasting connections with nature and the outdoors.
Healthy Parks Healthy People Science Plan

The Healthy Parks Healthy People Science Plan is available for download. Developed with the engagement of academic researchers, health professionals, and federal scientists, it provides a framework and research agenda necessary to advance society’s recognition and reliance on the role of parks and protected areas in contributing to the nation’s health.

Healthy Parks Healthy People Community Engagement eGuide
The Healthy Parks Healthy People Community Engagement eGuide is available for download. It is the first in a digital series to chronicle and share the development of Healthy Parks Healthy People programs in parks and communities all across the country. This eGuide helps park staff and partners discover the diversity of ideas, tools, and practical advice that can serve as an inspiration and resource to launch and sustain Healthy Parks Healthy People programs.
Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook
The Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook is available for download. It was made
through a collaboration between the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Community Design Initiative and the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. This workbook assists communities in designing parks and trails that promote physical activity, reduce stress, and provide environmental benefits.
Military Engagement Strategy

The Military Engagement Strategy is available for download. The National Park Service is committed to providing a robust array of opportunities for service members, veterans, and their families to experience parks as places of health and wellness, service and stewardship, education and recreation, employment and job skills training, and honor and celebration of their history and service. Through partnership and collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and dozens of nonprofit organizations, the National Park Service will strive to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in this plan.

Active Transportation Guidebook

The NPS Active Transportation Guidebook is available for download. The National Park Service, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation, is pleased to present the National Park Service Active Transportation Guidebook: A Resource on Supporting Walking and Bicycling for National Parks and their Partners. This tool supports National Park Service staff, local governments, community partners, and others to promote, encourage and implement responsible bicycle and pedestrian-friendly travel to and within national park sites.

Public Lands Engagement: Health & Wellness in Nature
The Public Lands Engagement: Health & Wellness in Nature Guide is available for download. It was made through a collaboration between the National Park Service, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), and the US Forest Service. This guide provides tools, tips, and real-world examples for planning and executing health and wellness activities during events on public lands.

Evidence Linking Parks & Health

Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing.
Source: (White et al., 2019)

Viewing and spending time in nature lowers cortisol and blood pressure and is linked with lowering levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Source: (Bratman, Hamilton, Hahn, et al., 2015). (Cox, Shanahan, Hudson, 2017). (Bratman, Daily, et al., 2015). (Duncan, Clarke, Birch, 2014). (Haluza et al, 2014).

Exposure to nature has many physiologic benefits beyond mental health. Individuals exercise longer, more vigorously, and more regularly in green spaces and parks compared to other areas.
Source: (Gladwell, Brown, Wood, et al., 2013).

The AWE effect. Nature makes you more creative.Experiencing the wonder of nature can inspire people to solve problems more cooperatively and creatively.
Source: (Stellar, Gordon, Piff, et al., 2017). (Zhang, Piff, Iyer, et al, 2015).

Nature makes you more generous to others. Viewing beautiful nature scenes can result in people being more cooperative andgenerous to others, even in the presence of strangers.
Source: (Zelinski, Dopko, Capaldi, 2016).

Living near green spaces reduces mortality even when adjusted for socio-demographic factors.
Source: (Vienneau, Danielle et al., 2017). (Xu, Lixia et al., 2017). (James, Hart et al., 2016). (Gascon, Triguero-Mas, Martinez et al., 2016). (Brown, Lombard, Wang, 2016).

Access to parks is a social equalizer, addressing health disparities and benefiting people’s health and wellbeing.
Source: (Lachowycz and Jones 2014). (Wolch, Byrne, Newell, 2014). (Maas et al., 2006). (Mitchell and Popham 2008).

NPS Scientific Papers on Nature & Health Connection

Natural Solutions: Protected areas are vital for human health and wellbeing (Dudley N., Allen D., Campbell K., 2014).
Benefits of biodiversity to human health and well-being. (Buttke, D., D. Allen, and C. Higgins. 2014. Park Science 31(1):24–29).
Park health resources: Benefits, values, and implications. (Thomsen, J. M., R. B. Powell, and D. Allen. 2013, Park Science 30(2):30–36).
Let’s Go to the Park Today: The Role of Parks in Obesity Prevention and Improving Public’s Health. Childhood Obesity 8(5):423-8 (Blanck HM, Allen D., Bashir Z, et al. 2012).
Parks Promoting Physical Activity: Synthesis of Findings from Interventions in Seven National Parks. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 7 (Supp 1: 567-581). Hoehner CM, Brownson RC, Allen D. 2010.

Recommendation Reports & Guidelines for Health Promotion in Parks

National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition (HHS, 2018).
Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations (T. Davis. 2018).
NPS Active Transportation Guidebook (NPS. 2018).
Connecting with Nature to Care for Ourselves and the Earth (Children and Nature Network, 2018).
Healthy Aging in Action Report (National Prevention Council. 2016).
The Natural Environments Initiative:Illustrative Review and Workshop Statement (2014).
Health, Recreation, and Our National Parks: Addressing the Role of National Parks to Promote and Provide Healthful Recreational Activities.(National Park Service Advisory Board Report. 2006).
Exploring Bicycle Options for Federal Lands: Bike Sharing, Rentals and Employee Fleets. (Federal Highway Administration U.S. Department of Transportation, 2012).

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Last updated: April 20, 2022