This is post from my friend, Anne Gantt. I love this concept and am inspired by the idea of parents pumping iron at the park. I’m hoping we can move this conversation forward. Please share ideas from your own neighborhoods in comments.
As a stay-at-home mom, I spend a ton of time at our neighborhood park while my 2 ½ and 4 year-old children zip down slides, scramble over the jungle gym, or chase each other in the woodchips. While they’re running around like little olympic athletes, I mostly just stand there doing nothing. A lot of nothing. Sound familiar?
That’s originally why I daydreamed about putting fitness equipment for adults in our park. I’d love to get a little exercise without having to resort to taking a turn on the monkey bars. The interesting thing is that installing adult fitness equipment will improve the park…for kids. This truly can be a win-win.
The park in question is here in Seattle– University Playground— it has a big grassy field, tennis courts, and beautiful new equipment for kids. It also has one of the very few public restrooms in the whole neighborhood–thus attracting a crowd. It sits in a tenuous location, one block from Interstate-5 and smack in the University District, which means the park sees a lot of illicit activity. Even worse, the illicit (I’m talking drug sales, etc) activity tends to happen in the section of the park right next to the playground.
Believe it or not, I’ve picked up more than a couple of used needles out of the woodchips myself.
Our park’s unsavory elements definitely scare some people off. I recently talked with a neighbor who refuses to take his 4-year old grandson to the park out of a concern for safety. This, even though their living room window looks right out onto the playground.
Something had to change. Urban dwelling can be better than this.
Last summer, I started wondering, along with a group of neighbors, about what we could do to make the park more attractive while simultaneously reducing the criminal activity. It occurred to me that having some outdoor fitness equipment might actually fit the bill. I wondered if teens, University of Washington college students, and parents would come to work out and exercise in the park. It seems possible with the right lure. It also felt like a perfect solution to improving safety.
Studies from Los Angeles and elsewhere show that outdoor fitness facilities are used throughout the day, bring new users to the park, increase their visits, and that the users exercise more. The Seattle Police Department supported installing fitness equipment as well. The Seattle PD confirms from experience that just a few people engaged in healthy activities can make a big difference in a public space.
Now we’re moving forward. Our little green urban square is gonna win.
Our neighborhood, The Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance, received a Small and Simple grant from the Neighborhood Matching Fund in November of 2012 to pilot Seattle’s first outdoor fitness area. Not only will this space provide access to fitness equipment, it will help increase the “eyes on the street” in the park, making it a safe place for kids, families, college students, grandparents and caregivers who look after young children.
The result of all that standing around doing a lot nothing is an outdoor fitness area in our local park in June. If this goes well and proves successful, one could be in your park, too.
What do you think? Would you use a fitness area if it were in your local park?
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation to our efforts, please visit our page on the Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance website or email us: FriendsofUniversityPlayground (at) gmail (dot) com.
Need A Nudge To Make This Happen In Your Park?
- Research shows that ten minutes of moderate activity a day, repeated three times, has more health benefits than one 30-minute workout. This is perfect for the park.
- More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. 17% of all children and adolescents in the US are obese.
- Exercise is especially important for decreasing the risk of breast cancer in young, pre-menopausal women.
- Parents who model good physical activity to their children promote lifelong healthy physical activity habits.
This is so empowering to see parents taking back their communities to create safe and healthy spaces for our youth!
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
I know. What Anne is doing with her neighbors is totally inspiring for us all!
Thanks for taking the initiative to improve this park! Our son goes to school nearby and we sometimes stop there…
This is not my blog (but I do like it), and over the summer we explored this park – Atlantic Street Park https://yearofseattleparks.blogspot.com/2010/02/atlantic-street-park.html?m=1 – at 21st Ave S and Atlantic St S.
It had fabulous kid equipment and interesting adult exercise equipment!
If you are in area, you should check it out – for fun, and for possible ideas for your project, or even make it a destination to check out…
I tried a few machines and during the hour we were there, a couple people came by and did a few machines…and for what it’s worth, all exercisers appeared to be over 60 years old.
There also were two seemingly homeless people who came thru (separately) and hung out a bit and left.
Good luck and thanks, again, for working to improve the park for all of us!
Thanks, Brianna for mentioning Atlantic Park. I visited the park last summer just to see the fitness equipment– the ones there are specifically for seniors– but glad you enjoyed trying it out. I hope you’ll come to compare a set up for all ages. And thanks for your vote of confidence!
Seattle Parks has recently started to add some adult fitness equipment to parks. One that I know of is at John C Little Park in Beacon Hill. 6961 37th Ave S.
The equipment is placed surround ig the playground and spray park so adults can bioth watch their kids and get exercise at thes ame time. This is more like equipment you find at a n igym withlike elliptical machines and rowing machines that are fun and easy to use.
The equipment is from TriActive http://www.triactiveamerica.com out of Califiornia, who was recently featured on a couple of TV news programs.
The City of Redmond has some of the same brand equipment at their Senior Center also, along the Samammish River Trail.
This sounds great. I will check it out!
Marlo Laubach says
Great post! The High Point neighborhood in West Seattle recently got adult fitness equipment in Bataan Park with the children’s playground nearby. It gets a lot of use from the neighbors.
This is a great idea, however I rarely find myself sitting/standing around at the park. As a parent of 3, including a toddler, I am constantly on the go at the park. Managing safety and and supporting social interactions keep me very busy and make it necessary for me to be within close reach of my little ones.
Ruth Callard says
There are wonderful templates for adult fitness stations. I have photographed some as I see them. The very best is a vault bar. It looks like a railing but the railing is sloped so that the vault is easy or hard. Also, the exercises are unlimited on an outdoor Smith Machine. Again, the height of the bar can be changed according to how tall or strong you are. There are dozens of exercises one can do on it and they are exercises that the machine was not intended for. Many are strength oriented and many cardio oriented.
I hope you succeed!