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Varun Baliga

7 Ways Park and Recreation Professionals Inspire Healthy Living

Park and Recreation Professionals Day is being celebrated on July 16 this year

In every community, we come across a variety of people who support our quality of life. From our healthcare and civic duty workers to the small businesses who cater to our needs, everyone plays a part in making our communities more wholesome and rewarding.

Park and recreation professionals are among those unsung heroes who serve us every day, giving their all to improving their community and protecting the world around them. Over 160,000 professionals across the country are constantly looking for new ways to help us improve our well-being, learn new things, and lead more fulfilling lives.

This year, on Park and Recreation Professionals Day, we would like to recognize and appreciate all that they do to inspire a healthier, more grounded lifestyle.

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Significance of Park and Recreation Professionals Day

Park and Recreation Professionals Day is celebrated on the third Friday of July every year to honour Certified Park and Recreation Professionals (CPRP) and other part-time professionals who manage and protect America's local, state, and community parks and highlight the role they play in helping society in the areas of health and well-being, environmental conservation, and social equity.

It has been celebrated as a part of Parks and Recreation Month in July every year since 1985. That was when the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) worked with then-Vice President George H. W. Bush to move the occasion from June to align with school summer vacations.

Park and Recreation agencies use the occasion every year to raise awareness on managing our mental and physical health and build stronger relationships within the community. We decided this was the perfect opportunity for us to take a closer look at how these professionals influence our society and encourage a higher quality of life every day.

How park and recreation professionals inspire healthy living

  1. Encourage regular physical activity
  2. Enable a balanced, nutritious diet
  3. Help improve mental well-being
  4. Combat substance abuse and aid recovery
  5. Address the needs of the elderly
  6. Support health equity
  7. Reduce social isolation and nurture communities

Park and recreation centers conduct a number of programs and activities round the year that are designed to help you improve your lifestyle and consequently your health and well-being. Here are just some of the ways in which they contribute to our lives.

1. Encourage regular physical activity

Park and recreation professionals conduct a variety of programs to boost physical activity

For starters, regular physical activity has an immediate impact on our brain health. It improves cognitive health in young children and helps the rest of us stay alert and focused through the day. It also helps combat obesity, perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing the country today.

Today, the average park and recreation agency has at least 8 full-time employees for every 10,000 residents and about 9.9 acres of land for every 1,000 residents. Parks and recreation employees conduct a number of activities around the year that encourage and support physical activity, right from local little league games in your neighborhood to grueling marathons and other physically intensive activities.

The bonus with park and recreational activities is that not only do they exercise you physically, they promote increased social interactions and team-building to help bring people closer and create a friendlier and more empathetic society for all of us.

2. Enable a balanced, nutritious diet

Park and recreation centers serve as community hubs to encourage nutritious diets

A saturated junk food market and the use of pesticides while growing our fruits and vegetables means finding healthy, organic food takes some effort on our part.

Recognizing the need for bringing good food closer to our communities, parks and recreation centers have been playing a more active role in this area. Agencies located around residential areas organize regular farmer's markets to help residents build a nutritious diet without too much effort.

These centers also dedicate their resources to educating young citizens on balanced diets, the importance of nutrition, and how to stay on top of their well-being. Park and recreation centers effectively serve as hubs of nutrition, serving fresh meals to children and empowering residents through community-based agriculture programs.

3. Help improve mental well-being

Park and recreation professionals work closely with young adults to support their mental health

Mental health has been receiving more attention in recent years, but there's still some way to go before mental health is treated with as much importance as physical health.

Thankfully, our parks and recreation agencies are more than up to the task, recognizing the significance of mental health in our daily lives and addressing mental health needs across age groups. Parks and recreational centers across the country understand the need for stable guidance for children and young adults and take initiative through mentorship, mental health counselling, and other community programs.

Recreation professionals with CPRP certification work with the youth to identify and address their distress, trauma, and challenges they may be facing in their daily lives. Community programs and counselling sessions serve as platforms to help them overcome difficult experiences and foster stronger relationships with their peers, their families, and the society at large.

4. Combat substance abuse and aid recovery

Park and recreation centers help mitigate the stigma around substance abuse and mental health disorders

Parks and recreation agencies also take an active interest in acknowledging the problems associated with substance abuse and work to find a way back for addicted youth across the country.

Through a combination of outreach programs and preventive measures for substance abuse in parks and recreation centers, agency employees are helping young people stay away from harmful substances and lead better lives.

Park and recreation programs for substance abuse are designed to mitigate the stigma and mental health disorders that come with such abuse. They work closely with young adults to understand the various factors that may have contributed to their substance abuse and help them find a way back to a healthy lifestyle.

5. Address the needs of the elderly

Park and recreation professionals support the elderly through nutrition and community programs

The country's senior population has grown by nearly 35 percent in the last decade and is expected to increase further in the coming years. This growth is accompanied by an increase in chronic health conditions and decline in food security.

Today, our seniors need us more than ever and parks and recreation centers should be commended for their efforts to reach out to the elderly. According to the NRPA, 9 of every 10 parks and recreation centers are catering to the elderly, either through recreational facilities, outreach programs, and other engaging activities.

As a matter of fact, a significant number of agencies reach out to adults as young as 50 in their bid to be inclusive. Park and recreation programs for the elderly are diverse and inviting, including activities such as field trips, mentorship and volunteering opportunities, and nutrition programs among others.

6. Support health equity

Park and recreation professionals help provide equitable access to healthcare within their community

One of the biggest challenges facing society today is ensuring universal healthcare is available to all. With the high costs currently associated with healthcare in the country, this is a serious problem that needs to be tackled with a united effort across communities.

Adding momentum to these efforts are our parks and recreation centers, who serve as effective wellness hubs within their communities. These spaces host everything you would need to keep up a healthy lifestyle including sports activities, fitness centers, and out-of-school programs to promote well-being among children and young adults. 

Park and recreation centers serve as effective nutrition hubs and encourage visitors to adopt healthy diets. They also enable easier access to healthcare centers and clinics for everyone, especially for those coming from marginalized communities. Park and recreation centers act as strong supporters of health equity and make an effort to meet the needs of every member in their community.

7. Reduce social isolation and nurture communities

Park and recreation activities are designed to bring people closer within communities

The pandemic last year exposed a rot that had been setting in since the rapid development of communication in this digital era. A long period of quarantine effectively cut us off from physical interactions and left us feeling increasingly isolated despite having the word at our fingertips.

This demonstrates quite clearly that despite the world being a much smaller place thanks to the internet, there’s just no substitute for in-person interactions. The programs and activities that park and recreation professionals conduct are designed to encourage a deeper understanding of fellow members in your community, better collaboration, and smoother communication with each other.

Activities such as youth leagues, out-of-school programs, community events, and competitions help people engage more meaningfully with their community and maintain a higher quality of life in the long run.

We are truly grateful to our park and recreation agencies and dedicated professionals who work constantly to support our society and add value to our lives. At Omnify, we have been working closely with certified park and recreation professionals and agencies to add value to their work and help them deliver better outcomes to their communities.

Know more about Omnify's solutions here and create a better experience for visitors at your park or recreational center today! Start your FREE TRIAL today!

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It’s Park and Recreation Professionals Day! Time to recognize those unsung heroes who contribute to our health and well-being every day!

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