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Physical Activity Programs
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Physical activity programs

As we often discuss, physical activity has increasingly become a vital component to promote in our communities. There has been a shift in lifestyle as America has witnessed an increase in obesity percentages and a decrease in physical activity rates. According to the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, childhood obesity is one of the most urgent health issues we face in the United States. Statistics have indicated nearly one in three children are overweight or obese, which directly correlates with immediate and long-term health issues such as: heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and asthma. While recreation and park agencies cannot prevent all negative issues, we can still work to increase physical activity in our community through employee and community wellness programs. Below are a few ideas and resources to get you started! 


Physical Activity Training for Staff

In the recreation and park profession, employees have the opportunity to be role models for promoting physical activity in their community. However, there needs to be information available for employees to help the increase healthy physical activity both at work and home. Encourage peers in your department share knowledge or to lead staff training that promotes physical activity. Access to information is the first step to initiate a more balanced and healthy lifestyle among your workers and community. 


Run/Walk Groups

Run/Walk groups are a perfect way to get community members out and active while educating them about their local park system, the first goal is to establish a base of interest. Social media, flyers throughout the community, and reaching out to people who would be interested in participating is a perfect place to start. The idea is to cater to families and individuals to contribute to the diversity of the running group, which will allow to meet the needs of all types of runners! This means you should offer or adjust programs that meet the needs of rookie runners, veteran runners, children, adults and seniors. The next step is to reach out to an organization or special interest group that have similar interests or objectives as what you have set for the group. The groups can consist of healthy food vendors, sport equipment stores, or other sponsor groups, organizations such as local farmer markets, local health food stores, Fleet Feet Sports, or local running organizations would be perfect. It will be easier to promote the run group if your department has external organizations reaching out to the community as well. These groups can also be possible financial supporters of the program. The key is to pick a time and place that will best suit your participants. Lastly, provide the participants with something to follow, such as a 5K training program guide giving them a goal to work towards and achieve. Finding a way to instill motivation and inspiration among participants is critical for the success of a run group program.


There's an App For That

Smartphone apps provide us with tools and technology that can inspire and motivate us to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle. One app suggested, Human, is an activity and calorie tracker. This app inspires you to move 30 minutes or more every day, whether if that’s walking, running, biking or any sort of indoor activity. You can map your runs, walks and activity using GPS and even compete with co-workers, family members or friends. 7 Minute Workout Challenge, is an exercise app that uses a research-backed workout program. Researchers have selected 12 exercises that are performed for 30 seconds with 10 second rest intervals. Exercises are simple to perform, and require little to no equipment. The app also tracks your progress, and results in higher daily metabolism and is equivalent of working out for over an hour. Exercises can include push-ups, wall sits, planks, jumping jacks or lunges, which all can be done outdoors or indoors. Health for the IPhone and Google Fit for Androids, is an app that tracks your daily activity just by carrying your phone, such as walking, running, and cycling activity. As of now the average amount of steps per-day for a US adult is 5900 step, according to Shape Up America!, we should be aiming for at least 10,000 steps per-day. This app will allow you to set goals based on either duration or steps and you are able to see progress throughout the day. Using apps to support making a lifestyle change can provide support and motivation to kick off a healthier you!  We encourage you to share this information and other inspirational ideas with your community through newsletters, or daily health-fact tweets through twitter. Remember, the more creative you are the more excited and involved your community will become. 

Family Game Nights in the Community

Hosting a Family Game Night is the perfect opportunity to bring together the community. Not only are you using your parks, but it also promotes healthy activities for both children and adults. The children will be physically engaged and making new friends while participating in the planned activity. What’s needed? First, select an ideal park location that can hold various amount of activities for children and adults. Plan activities for the children followed by a cookout or even a movie night. Some popular games include: Capture the Flag, Ultimate Frisbee, Soccer, Scavenger Hunt, Tag or an Obstacle Race Course. Depending on your target age with the children, you can adjust the competitiveness to the age group. Recruit family members to help run the activities during the event! Remember to contact local vendors to provide healthy food or snacks for after the evening activities. This is a perfect opportunity for vendors to get to know the community and for the families to know about vending offerings.


Workplace Wellness

An employee wellness program, also called a “worksite wellness program,” is a program designed to promote and support the health, safety, and well-being of employees. Why develop an employee wellness programs? A wellness program has many positive attributes such as improving staff health, morale and productivity. Also supporting the staff to make healthy lifestyle choices will encourage them to be role models for the community. Some components include providing wellness newsletters, health risk assessments, health screenings, workshops on wellness issues, walking or running groups, health fairs, physical activity breaks, and fitness classes. Other incentives to remain healthy include: water bottles, insulated lunch bags, stress balls or cookbooks! Employees may have other ideas in your department, so ask around! Click here to learn more on how to start an employee wellness program. 


Engaging the Community

Recreation and park agencies can take advantage of becoming community leaders in promoting physical activity among children and adults. Implementing wellness among your own community begins with sharing information, followed by leading, organizing and finally taking action. Taking an initiative to establish wellness as a priority for your organization will provide inspiration and leadership through a consistent message. Organizing your wellness program will identify key components of what to focus on the most in your community. And lastly, taking action, will empower your community to make the necessary changes and ultimately increase physical activity.


Next Steps

Firstshare your ideas or planned projects with us, so we can share your experience here in the toolkit. Second, here are some ideas and resources for expanding your agency's active lifestyle programs:

  • Host educational sessions in your department, ask employees to share how they lead an active lifestyle. The more ideas shared, the more people will want to become active
  • Create active lifestyle challenges in your community; use social media by posting pictures and stories of community members being active in your community
  • Continue to share information on social media; use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and monthly newsletters to spread information on leading active lifestyles


Physical Activity Programs and Information/Statistics 

Resources for Physical Activity from NCRPA's Webinars:

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