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17 Nov 2019


Most Americans spend at least some time each day engaging in recreation and/or leisure. In fact, Americans age 15 years or older report an average of 5.24 hours per day spent on recreation activities like watching TV, playing games, and exercising (see figure below). Given that recreation is a large proportion of most American’s days, it’s not surprising that recreation can have great impact on their physical and mental health. Because physical and mental health are key components of retention and readiness among service members, Morale, Welfare and Recre-ation (MWR) services are in place to support our military.

To provide information that can optimize MWR programming to best support the retention and readiness of service members, the Military REACH team reviewed existing research to identify the past and present trends in recreation along with innovative “next steps” for recreation looking forward. Here is a snap-shot of what we found:

General Recreation Trends

  • Experience-seeking recreation is one of the fastest growing industries.
  • Digital recreation, outdoor recreation, and experience-seeking recreation are three categories of recreation that offer opportunities (e.g., regular exercise) and threats (e.g., sedentary behavior) to MWR’s mission to support readiness.
  • Recreation behaviors vary by age group (see figure below).

Models for Recreation Service Delivery

  • There are two main recreation service delivery models: public and private. These models overlap.
  • Private models are more expensive, but more flexible enabling them to adjust based on trends.
  • Community partnerships may be an avenue for responding to recreation trends for public models.

Contextualizing Experience Delivery Models

  • Understanding the recreation needs of the target population (i.e., military families) is important, but likely varies between families due to family life stage.
  • Recreation trends have moved toward experience staging, which allows for customized experiences (e.g., showing the customer that you know who they are and what they want).
  • Innovative approaches to recreation experience design include leveraging technology, considering novel delivery models, and rebranding.

Strategies and Measurement Tools for Evaluating Experiences

  • Evaluation of recreation can provide the evidence stakeholders need to determine if goals are met.
  • There are multiple ways to evaluate program processes, merit, and effectiveness.
  • Evaluation approaches should be steered by the question(s) the evaluation seeks to answer.
  • There are existing surveys that have been shown to accurately assess experiences and long-term outcomes of recreation experiences.

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