Health is not something to be overlooked, especially in these complex and hectic times. However, it seems that somewhere along the line, it has. According to American Sports Data, “childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled in the past two decades.” This trend is likely related to the rise of electronic based entertainment and poor eating habits, and is in direct correlation with growing levels of inactivity in today’s youth. Obesity contributes a wide array of “debilitating medical conditions,” says Penelope Slade-Sawyer, of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. One of the easiest ways to combat this dilemma is to fight off sedentary habits and promote an overall healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition and regular exercise.
Exercise can take many forms, from a quick basketball game to a brisk walk around the local park. In 2003, Chairman of the PCPFS Lynn Swann said physical activity not only lends a hand in sustaining or advancing a healthy body, it also “improves mental health.” The benefits of activity are seemingly irrefutable, but the hard part is making time for it. Luckily, most experts agree that it only takes 30 minutes, five times a week to get a sufficient amount of exercise.
For those in the parks and recreation arena, specifically landscape architects, these facts are important to keep in mind in the development of recreational spaces. Playgrounds are important in stimulating activity in children; walking paths and sports fields will inspire adults to get out there. Also, keeping trees and shrubbery in view creates an attractive ambiance, as does the placement of drinking fountains and an appropriate number of litter receptacles. Maintaining cleanliness and implementing contemporary styles will draw out increased numbers to parks today. Usually, time spent outdoors equates to time spent exercising, so parks need to be desired destinations.