Impact and cost-effectiveness of family Fitness Zones: A natural experiment in urban public parks

July 18, 2015


The Challenge: Many communities and organizations make changes to local parks to increase physical activity, yet the effectiveness of these modifications is seldom evaluated.

Make an impact: It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of park interventions so we know which types of modifications to continue supporting.

What the findings are about: This study evaluated the impact of installing Fitness Zone equipment — durable, outdoor exercise machines for strength training and aerobic exercise — in 12 parks that served diverse communities.


  • After installation of the Fitness Zones, there was an overall increase in park visitors’ energy expenditure while in the parks, and half of the parks with new Fitness Zone equipment also experienced increases in the number of park users.
  • The increases in physical activity reflected a cost-effectiveness ratio equivalent to spending 10.5 cents to get a person to walk briskly for 20 minutes.
  • Installing Fitness Zone equipment in parks with limited facilities and in areas that are nearby, and easily accessible to, large populations may increase both park use and physical activity levels among park visitors.