We’ve all heard it before, “Personal recreational activities involves those actions that relax, refresh, and rejuvenate us” – yet how much do we truly gain from these activities? Recreation is a healthy part of each individual’s own life and can be enjoyed by everyone. The benefits of recreation are not only positive to the community of today, but to the society of tomorrow.
The positive outlook on recreation is unlimited and endless in our world. There are great things that not only improve health and wellness, but the building of self-esteem and stress reduction (NRPA). Recreation is a healthy alternative for positive behavior, which leads to opportunities for learning and living a balanced, productive life. According to NRPA recreation evolves physical, mental, and social health related benefits that result from participating in recreational activities. Although many other important benefits are documented, (increased environmental stewardship, job opportunities, and a variety of economic benefits) there are many current research documentations on the physical aspects of recreation along with recent trends in recreational interests. According to the Surgeon General’s Report, over 60 million people are considered overweight.
Overweight and obesity are associated with heart disease, types of cancer, type II diabetes, respiratory problems, and psychological problems such as depression and fatigue. Participating in meaningful recreational activity aides in the prevention of diseases and improves the mental health of participants.
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease is America’s leading cause of death. Physical inactivity is the single greatest factor leading to this disease. As a result, exercise is especially important to public health. Bicycling and walking can fill America’s physical void of inactivity and make a major contribution to health. Moderate activity, such as walking from thirty to sixty minutes a day, several days a week, is associated with significant reductions in coronary heart disease.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death, after heart disease, in the United States. In 1994, the American Cancer Society estimated that 540,000 Americans died from cancer, while 1,210,000 new cases of the disease occurred the same year (NRPA). Recreation, fitness, sports and active living has been shown to help in the prevention of specific cancers such as colon, breast and lung.
According to the 1996 Surgeon General’s report, “Physical Activity and Health,” taking daily walks outside can postpone and possibly prevent the development of type II diabetes in people who are overweight and who have already started having trouble metabolizing glucose.
Improvement of Mental Health
Recreation is a proven therapeutic tool used in hospitals, clinics, and communities everywhere, helping to restore physical, mental, and social capacities and abilities. Americans who recreate frequently are notably happier with their lives than other Americans.
Over all, recreation is proven to flow through so many aspects of personal lives like improving depression, building self-esteem and confidence, reducing tension and anxiety, and encouraging personal growth (CDC). The benefits don’t stop here, however, they over flow into society and the American culture.
Social interaction through recreational activities help to break down unfamiliarity, fear and isolation (factors associated with racism) and promotes contact between various groups within the broader community. In addition, recreation promotes the desired image of a community and facilitates community problem solving.
With recreation strong within our society, it is shown to reduce crime rates and vandalism, teach positive conflict resolution skills, and generally influence positive attitude and behavior.
Economically, recreation attracts business expansion and relocation. It can obviously contribute to a productive work environment, along with having enhanced real estate values and tourist attractions. Environmentally, recreation can help to protect natural resources and open spaces and in turn enhance air and water quality. It aids in providing and protecting wildlife habitats. In all, recreation improves overall community livability (NRPA).
Along with recreation comes a very important part of society, public safety. Recreation is more than fun and games, it is a “Community Oriented Policy” (CPRS) that provides training and the facilitation of various programs. Police agencies can utilize park and recreation commissions in efforts to discuss community problems and work out solutions. Park and recreation agencies have existing facilities and program participants that represent all ages and groups to gauge an idea of public interest and opinion. Professionals are trained to identify community needs and create programs based on those needs and adjust programs for new needs as they arrive.
In most communities, there are more kids under the direction of a recreation programs than at any time, so the collaboration with schools and churches has the ability to provide information on youth issues and preventative programs (CPRS). The actual content of these programs is important. Content and programs that shows themselves to be useful are those that captivate youth audiences for education or provide role models and teach life skills.
Youth and young adults are employed by Rec. agencies in many of the following ways: lifeguards, sport officials, playground leaders, and maintenance workers. Park and Recreation programs provide economic benefits through the purchase of supplies and equipment, and increasing the work force. This increase in the tax base is a key component of general funds that are used to fund public safety (CPRS).
The youth aspect of public safety is enormous. 40% of youth’s time is open to choices – positive or negative. Recreation agencies offer today’s youth positive, healthy, and constructive activities. Youth programs make a difference on youths and provide more activities than anything else in town. The California Parks and Recreation Service agrees that Gang-related problems cost California taxpayers about One Billion dollars each year. Experts say that lack of positive alternatives is a key factor to the choice to join gangs. Five recreation centers costing a total of $13,000 kept more then 230,000 youths busy evenings and weekdays (CPRS).
Within the ten million households of America, says the CPRS, 36% of them have children under 18. Recreation agencies offer healthy and fun activities to improve family relationships and parenting skills. They also employ the youths that learn lifelong job skills at early ages. Regrettably, the CPRS admits that 1 in 13 youths is a victim of a violent crime, which puts them at a higher risk for violence when they become adults. Recreation agencies assist law enforcement through intervention and prevention programs that reduce juvenile crime such as vandalism, graffiti, and gang involvement. This teaming up of resources saves the communities resources, and brings greater light and fresh perspectives upon issues and problems facing various communities.
With Recreation so alive and important in just about ever aspect of our society, on a personal, economic, environmental, and cultural level, it should not be overlooked or stepped over. They develop what our great nation will become, and locally keep us all safe and healthy. This is why the benefits of recreation are not only positive to the community of today, but to the society of tomorrow.
“Benefits Movement Defined.” National Recreation and Park Association.10 October 2002. 17 October 2002 .
“Activity Guide.” Redding Recreation 12-13 Spring 2002: 3.
“10 Reasons why public safety should partner with recreation.” California Parks and Recreation Service. 3 September 2002. 17 October 2002 .
“Activity Guide.” Redding Recreation 7-9 Winter 2002: 1.
“Activity Guide.” Redding Recreation 2 Fall 2002: 4.
“Promoting better health for young people.” California Disease Center. 21 July 2002. 17 October 2002 .
Wilson, Edward O. “Parks and Recs.” Advisors Marketing March 2001: 41-62.
“Parks or Prisons.” California Parks and Recreation Service. 7 September 2002. 17 October 2002 .
“Activity Guide.” Redding Recreation 27-29 Summer 2002: 2.
U.S. Surgeon Generals Report. “A Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity.” Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001. Washington, DC: U.S. Table 277.
U.S. Surgeon Generals Report. “Physical Activity and Health.” Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1996. Washington, DC: U.S. Table 212.