Community Recreation, Fitness and Parks

The Community Recreation, Fitness, and Parks (CRFP) Sector includes a wide range of close-to-home facilities and services available at low or no cost to most Americans. Collectively, this sector manages more than 108,000 outdoor public park and recreation facilities and 65,000 indoor facilities.1  Facilities and services provided through this sector cover a diverse array of environments, programs, and services provided through non-profit and local government community centers; public parks, trails, nature, and open spaces; and personal trainers and private fitness and health clubs/facilities.

The sector contributes to physical activity across all ages and many populations. Generally, the literature demonstrates a positive relationship between programming, facility condition/ quality, close-to-home access, activity variety, connectivity, and higher levels of physical activity.2  A 2001 survey found that 30% of U.S. adults engaged in physical activity at a park, 25% on a walking and jogging trail, 25% on a treadmill, and 21% at an indoor gym.3  Local government park and recreation agencies, national/local non- profit organizations, and commercial entities often partner with the Education Sector to provide greater access to physical activity and fitness for youth. Further, a recent study of the sector found that 7 in 10 American adults used local parks and 3 out 10 participated in community programs in 2015. The most frequent benefits Americans felt the sector provided through programs and parks were exercise/activity and physical fitness.4 

Despite these encouraging statistics, many Americans remain insufficiently active in their leisure and recreation pursuits. This sector could help all those in the United States to incorporate enjoyable and meaningful leisure-time physical activity into their daily lives through strategies to provide better access to, and education about, available parks and recreations resources. The National Physical Activity Plan has identified five strategies to better leverage the sector’s impact on physical activity: 1) improving availability of and access to safe, clean, and affordable community recreation, fitness, and parks facilities, 2) enhancing existing and developing new resources, 3) recruiting and training a diverse cadre of recreation, parks, and fitness leaders, staff, and volunteers, 4) advocating for increased and sustainable funding and resources to support this sector, and 5) improve monitoring and evaluation of participation in community-based physical activity programs.   

Sector members and their partners also have numerous opportunities to collaborate with their core partners—organizations within the Education; Transportation, Land Use and Community Design; and Public Health sectors—as well as with other sectors in the National Physical Activity Plan to promote enhanced physical activity through increased use of community recreation, parks, and fitness facilities, programs, and services.

Strategies

STRATEGY 1
Communities should develop new, and enhance existing, community recreation, fitness, and park programs that provide and promote healthy physical activity opportunities for diverse users across the lifespan. (RFP-1) [View Tactics]

STRATEGY 2
Communities should improve availability of and access to, safe, clean, and affordable community recreation, fitness, and park facilities to support physical activity for all residents. (RFP-2) [View Tactics]

STRATEGY 3
Community recreation and park organizations, the fitness industry and private business should recruit, train, and retain a diverse group of leaders, staff, and volunteers to promote, organize, lead, and advocate for initiatives that encourage physical activity in their communities. (RFP-3) [View Tactics]

STRATEGY 4
Community recreation and park organizations, the fitness industry and private business should advocate for increased and sustainable funding and resources to create new, or enhance existing, physical activity facilities and services in areas of high need. (RFP-4) [View Tactics]

STRATEGY 5
Community recreation and park organizations and the for- and not-for-profit fitness industry should improve monitoring and evaluation of participation in community-based physical activity programs to gauge their effectiveness in promoting increased levels of physical activity for all. (RFP-5) [View Tactics]