Economic Review Highlights Costs and Benefits of Park, Trail, and Greenway Infrastructure Interventions

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) finds the economic benefits exceed the cost for park, trail, and greenway infrastructure interventions to increase physical activity and use. CPSTF recommends park, trail, and greenway infrastructure interventions combined with additional interventions, such as structured programs or community awareness, to increase physical activity.


A systematic review of economic evidence from seven studies found a median benefit to cost ratio of 3.1, meaning every dollar spent led to $3.10 worth of benefits. Economic benefits included improved health due to physical activity or the value of the infrastructure to users for recreation or relaxation.

Creating or enhancing access to places for physical activity, such as parks, trails, and greenways, is a key strategy featured in Active People, Healthy NationSM — a national initiative led by CDC to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027.

What are park, trail, and greenway infrastructure interventions?

These interventions improve the built and natural environments by creating or enhancing one of the following public locations for physical activity, relaxation, social interaction, and enjoyment.

  • Parks—designated public areas that often combine greenery with paths, facilities for physical activity and recreation, and places for relaxation and social interaction.
  • Trails and Greenways—routes for walking, hiking, or cycling in urban, suburban, or rural areas (e.g., “rails to trails” conversion projects). These may involve street conversions that provide opportunities for walking and cycling (most often in urban areas).
What are additional interventions?

Additional interventions include one or more of the following:

  • Community engagement
  • Public awareness activities
  • Programs that offer structured opportunities for physical activity and social interaction
  • Access enhancements such as transportation connections, street crossings, and expanded hours of operation

Why is this important?

Physical activity leads to immediate and long-term health benefits. Physical activity relieves stress and improves sleep and brain health. It can also reduce the risks for more than 20 chronic diseases like heart disease, some cancers, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Spending time in nature has also been linked with health benefits that include reductions in blood pressure, stress, and depression.

Get started!

Active Parks! Implementation Guide: Increasing Physical Activity Through Parks, Trails and Greenways, developed by the National Recreation and Park Association and CDC, provides a step-by-step process to help communities get started.

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