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Innovative playspace refurbishment more than doubles visits at Melbourne’s Brimbank Park
A newly published study on an innovative playscape in a local Melbourne park shows that installation resulted in more than double the number of park visitors engaging in physical activity at the park.
Published in The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the REVAMP (Recording and EValuating Activity in a Modified Park) study provides clear evidence that playground refurbishment can have a big impact on park visitation and park-based physical activity.
Lead author, Dr Jenny Veitch, from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University, said despite considerable investment in park renovations, few studies have examined the impact of improving park amenities on people’s physical activity and visits to parks.
Dr Veitch advised “when Parks Victoria were planning to install a new playscape at Brimbank Park, we seized the opportunity to conduct a natural experiment and evaluate the effectiveness of ‘real world’ changes in the physical environment
“An innovative play-scape was installed that included a maze, nature play area, climbing equipment and various sculptures, designed to encourage visitors, in particular children, to connect with both the natural environment and the significant Indigenous cultural heritage of the region.
“We were able to examine the impact of the Brimbank Park improvement on children, parents, adults and seniors over two years and compare it with a control park that had similar infrastructure prior to the refurbishment.”
The REVAMP study found that as a result of the refurbishment:
• Brimbank Park had over two and a half times more park visitors, relative to the control park
• Brimbank Park had more than double the amount of park visitors observed engaging in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA), relative to the control park
• Visitors to the new play-scape area increased more than seven times at Brimbank Park, whereas visitor counts at the playground at the control park decreased slightly over the same period.
Dr Veitch said that previous IPAN research had found that parks in socio-economically disadvantaged areas like Brimbank are more likely to be of poorer quality than parks in wealthier areas.
She added “attracting people to visit and be physically active in parks is very important to their health and wellbeing and with significant population growth in urban areas and increases in mid and high density living, the availability of high quality parks is critical for future generations.
“These findings confirm that well-designed play-scape refurbishments have the potential to increase park visitation and encourage visitors to use these spaces to be physically active.
“This evidence is important for policy and decision makers, urban planning, and future park developments, to ensure our parks are designed to support local communities to lead healthy and active lives.”
Welcoming the findings, VicHealth Chief Executive Jerril Rechter said lifestyles were becoming increasingly sedentary and less than a third of Australians were getting enough physical activity to benefit their health.
Rechter advised “we know there are many barriers preventing Victorians from increasing their level of physical activity - including access to local opportunities, cost or simply a lack of motivation.
"This project shows if we make physical activity an easy and attractive part of people’s daily lives they are more likely to do it. Projects like this improve people’s health and prevent chronic disease.”
Also welcoming the study, Parks Victoria Chief Executive Matthew Jackson commented “a big focus for Parks Victoria is to help people of all ages and abilities gain the health benefits of being in nature and our parks.
“We have been delighted to watch the playscape become a popular place for children and their families, and these research findings from IPAN at Deakin University are very welcome news.”
REVAMP was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC Linkage Grant LP120200396), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and City West Water. It included four partners: Parks Victoria, VicHealth, Brimbank City Council and City West Water.
Click here to view The REVAMP natural experiment study: the impact of a play-scape installation on park visitation and park-based physical activity.
Images of Brimbank Park courtesy of Dr Jenny Veitch.
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