The Potential of Safe, Secure and Accessible Playgrounds to Increase Children's Physical Activity

Two new research briefs produced by Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, examine the impact neighborhood playgrounds and trails can have on physical activity.

The first brief shows that when playgrounds are safe to use and easy to access, they’re more likely to help children be active. Locating playgrounds close to home and ensuring that they have safe, well-maintained equipment brings more kids to the playground and helps them get more physical activity while they’re there. One study compared school playgrounds in two New Orleans neighborhoods—one was kept open and supervised after school and on the weekends, and the other was closed when school was closed. The number of local kids who were outside and active was 84 percent higher in the neighborhood that kept the playground open longer. Joint-use agreements between local governments and school districts can help more kids and families have access to school facilities that support activity, such as playgrounds.

The second brief notes that a growing body of research shows walking, biking and hiking trails to be a cost-effective way to promote physical activity and potentially even reduce medical costs. It also finds that more research on children’s use of trails is needed.