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Integrated Parks and Physical Activity

An article in the Montreal Gazette covers the relationship of neighborhood design and physical activity and makes an important note on parks:

It isn’t just the importance we place on the car that sets us up for unwanted weight gain. Most modern neighbourhoods discourage outdoor play. Small neighbourhood parks have been replaced with large community parks and pitches that are too far away for kids to safely walk or ride their bikes. And a poorly planned network of streets and the popularity of fences discourage kids from running through lanes or backyards to call on a friend. Instead they are forced to travel by car or ask Mom or Dad to accompany them to destinations they should be able to navigate on their own.

….Friedman suggested that communities should build sidewalks and that parks and play areas be located closer to homes for easier access. For these ideas to be realized, local governments have to rethink the way they design our communities. Urban planning should include ways to promote physical activity instead of encouraging a sedentary lifestyle.

With suburban sprawl and suburban office parks, cities have also turned to suburban-style parks. Merely providing parks does not encourage physical activity. A community sports facility may just be a place where people gather for that Monday softball league or their kids’ soccer game. But if parks are integrated into the city they are far more likely to be integrated into daily life so that residents can be more active.

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