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Outdoor Fitness 101: The Need is Real


An Emergency Emerging

Physical activity is important for maintaining overall health and fitness: healthy bones, a healthy weight, emotional well-being, and a strengthened immune system just to name a few. Despite the many benefits, many people do not participate in regular physical activity. As a result, the rates for obesity and overweight individuals is much higher than a few decades ago, and that contributes to major health issues and concerns. Obese persons are at a higher risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke and Type II diabetes. Some types of cancers are even linked to overweight and obesity. Studies show regular daily physical activity can help prevent these conditions and improve the overall health and wellness of a community.

By the Numbers

Less than 25% of adults meet the physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle strengthening. Mean body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference has increased dramatically over the past two decades. CDC data shows about 70% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight and about 40% are classified as obese. By 2030, 13 states in America could have obesity rates above 60%. The medical cost of overweight and obesity is expected to exceed $60 billion by 2030 in the United States, alone. Worldwide medical costs will increase by hundreds of billions of dollars. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates we may see the first generation in recorded history that is less healthy and lives shorter lives than their parents.

Improving Quality of Life

Health implications aside, a sedentary lifestyle constricts a person's ability to fulfill daily tasks and reduces the enjoyment of physical activities. Creating spaces for adults to take part in physical activity not only helps reduce and prevent physical disease, but it also helps aid and maintain emotional well-being. Studies suggest exercise may reduce anxiety and depression, enhance cognitive abilities and protect against neurodegenerative disorders. Even exercise that lasts as little as ten minutes demonstrated improved moods and helps lessen fatigue. People report that exercising outdoors seems more enjoyable, possibly because the perception of exertion is reduced when enjoying the outdoors. Being in natural environments have long been linked to enhanced moods.

What's Standing in the Way?

While many might think the only barrier to having better health and an active lifestyle is personal determination or willpower, there are other obstacles beyond the control of the individual. In some neighborhoods, the cost of a fitness center or gym membership is restricted and prohibitive. In some communities, there is a lack of access to high-quality outdoor fitness equipment. Other people are hindered by lack of support from others to continue their work out effort and reach their goals, by a lack of knowledge on how and the correct way to exercise or a misunderstanding of what kinds of exercise are beneficial to their overall health and functional fitness.

In the people we surveyed, we discovered that a lack of childcare or appropriate and engaging activities for children while parents exercise was a barrier. Some people told us the fear of not understanding and knowing how to start exercises was holding them back. Another frequent response we heard from people was simply a lack of time. Busy lifestyles filled with family, work and other commitments crowded out any remaining time for physical exercise and personal wellness.

Here's the Answer

According to the National Parks and Recreation Association (NRPA), approximately 80% of people visit local parks on a regular basis. Of those, according to a RAND study, a large percentage (nearly 70 million) are adults who want to use the parks as a place to exercise regularly. That makes these parks the perfect choice to create outdoor fitness spaces for all to enjoy. Since many parks also have, or plan to build, playgrounds for children, they create a space for multigenerational recreation. Public parks remove two of the aforementioned barriers to regular exercise: access to a fitness area and engaging activities for children to play while parents exercise.

Outdoor fitness parks are free to members of the community. With the right site selection, you can place fitness parks within close proximity to families and neighborhoods, making it fast, easy and cheap to find a place to exercise. Family-focused fitness activities like Challenge Course make it fun for entire families to experience some friendly competition and exercise together.

To remove another barrier to exercise, it's important to help educate people to understand how to use the equipment properly. Signs throughout the space, labels on fitness equipment or personal trainers can help make sure people know what to do and how to maximize the experience. In some communities, a preferred location for group fitness classes is the outdoor fitness park. Participants enjoy the camaraderie of working as a team and appreciate the benefits of being outdoors.

If you're ready to make a difference in your community by creating an outdoor fitness park for adults, or multigenerational recreation space for entire families, Contact the GameTime fitness expert in your community. Together, we can create dynamic, active spaces where communities are made stronger.