What Works for Health

The National Park Service is custodian of our most treasured landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes. These resources-- that nurture, sustain, and inspire us are now being valued and understood for their collective benefits as a health resource to the American public.

Explore this site to learn about the evidence linking to parks and health.

What the science tells us about parks as a health resource

News Flash! The Community Guide now recommends park, trail, and greenway infrastructure interventions combined with additional interventions, such as structured programs or community awareness, and improved access, to increase physical activity. Results show an increase in the number of people who used the park, trails, and greenways and an increase in the number of people who used them to engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Source: (The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF), April 2022).

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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Evidence Based Health Promotion in Parks

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    Last updated: April 19, 2022