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Study Finds Better Park Signs Can Increase Exercise

Update Date: Oct 18, 2013 09:42 AM EDT

Due to the global obesity epidemic, government officials and agencies have created numerous campaigns and initiatives to get people to start exercising and eating healthy. However, not all of these programs are effective as people continue to lead sedentary lifestyles and increase their own risk of diseases. In a new study, researchers found one relatively simple way to get people moving. The study, out of RAND Corporation, which is a non-profit institution that aims to improve policy and decision-making by using research, is reporting that improved park signs could increase people's motivation to exercise.

"Given that parks are intended to serve local communities, successfully addressing the underutilization of parks may require community input and participation," the authors explained according to the Los Angeles Times.

For this study, the researchers focused on 50 local parks in Los Angeles, CA.  They selected these parks based on the racial and ethnic diversity that existed within a one-mile radius of the parks. Each park was allotted $4,000 that had to be used to increase the parks' attendance. The researchers divided the parks into three groups. In the first group, the park directors were asked to work with the researchers on finding ways to improve physical activity within the parks. The second group paired the park directors with a local park advisory board member and researchers in accomplishing the same goal. In the third group, the park directors had to work entirely on their own. The researchers observed the parks from 2007 through to 2012 by keeping track of who used the parks throughout the day. The researchers also interviewed people who resided near the parks.

The team noted the changes that took place. Around half of the money went to making signs more alluring so that people would want to exercise in the parks. 28 percent of the funding was spent on materials and labor for activities. 20 percent of the money was used as incentives. The researchers found that parks who spent money on marketing and outreach successfully increased physical activity by seven to 12 percent when compared to parks that did not implement any changes at all. The researchers believe that improving and adding park signs could be a cheap and effective way of getting more people to exercise.

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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