10 Ways to Get Fit in Your Local Parks and Rec

Image of a child on a swing.

Guest Post by Allison Colman, Program Manager, National Recreation and Park Association

The end of summer is fast approaching, which means that the new school year is just around the corner. Many families are looking for ways to stay healthy and active – and keep summer alive. Before the kids hit the books, why not fit in some late summer family fun, while at the same time finding a few quick ways to burn off energy.

This would also be the perfect time to work towards your fitness goals! Did you know getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week can lead to improved fitness, strength and mental health, not to mention improved academic performance for the kiddos?

You may be wondering how to achieve these family goals while still having fun (and not breaking your budget). While the popular Adele parody video will tell you to cut the donuts and mac and cheese, say goodbye to bagel bites, and suffer through painful lunges and dreaded push-ups, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has come up with a better solution to help you and your family burn off that end-of-summer steam. Use your parks and rec to get the whole family moving now and during the school year!

Here are our top 10 ways to get fit in your local parks and rec:

  1. Take advantage of fitness classes. Group fitness is a great way to get a safe and effective workout. Added bonus? It’s a social experience keeping you accountable and less likely to drop out of a program! Park and recreation agencies offer a wide variety of fitness classes for every age group and fitness level. In addition, many agencies offer classes outdoors at local parks (sometimes for FREE). Check out a neighborhood Zumba class, stretch and connect with nature at a yoga or tai chi session, or try a high-intensity boot camp with friends. Check with your local park and rec agency to determine class offerings, schedules, location and pricing.

  2. Hit the courts or take the field. Still reminiscing about winning that championship game in the good ole’ days? Make some new memories this year! Join an adult recreational league through your local park and rec agency and compete for the next trophy on your shelf. Adult sports leagues are a great way to meet new friends and ignite your competitive side. Leagues can be found for almost any team or individual sport including tennis, basketball, softball, kickball, pickleball, volleyball, flag football, soccer and more! Don’t forget to check out youth leagues for the kids as well!

  3. Test the waters. Check with your local agency to determine if any of their recreation centers have aquatics facilities. Exercising in the water can be a great way to get in a low-impact workout, eliminating the high impact stress that is placed on muscles and joints and reducing the risk of injury. It’s also perfect for anyone recovering from an injury or trying to regain strength in a specific muscle group. Try a water aerobics or aqua-training class, join a recreational swim team (for adults too!), or bring the kids to splash around with you.

  4. Challenge yourself to an indoor triathlon. Fall is the perfect time to expand your exercise routine! Some recreation centers already offer indoor triathlon competitions or training programs, but if yours doesn’t there is an easy way to organize your own. Challenge yourself to complete an indoor ironman over the course of 1 month at your local rec center. To complete the month-long ironman you’ll need to record 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and 26.2 miles running or walking. Who knows, at the end of the month you might just be inspired to sign up for a triathlon in your community!

  5. Play like a kid again. Remember when you were a kid and spent all day on the local playground until the dinner bell rang? No? Perhaps the dinner bell was only in my family. Either way, wake up your inner child and head to your neighborhood playground this year for a fun and super-challenging workout. Were you thinking of joining that super trendy CrossFit gym down the street? Well your neighborhood playground is the original CrossFit-style workout! The combination of monkey bars, pull-up bars, rings and climbing walls will target all of the major muscle groups in the upper body giving you a great workout at a great price (free)!

  6. Pick a 5K for the whole family. Participating in a 5K is a great way to develop a training program and get into a routine. Train at your local park or recreation center and get your whole family on board. Ready to race? See if your park and recreation department has any upcoming races or can suggest any. You may even find one tied to a charity you care about. You’ll feel good for training and finishing the 5K and you’ll give back to your community! It’s a win-win.

  7. You just might be the next log rolling champion. Or not. But you’ll never know unless you try. Challenge yourself to try something new and adventurous with your local parks and rec! Agencies offer unique programs and classes including log rolling (yep), paddle boarding and paddle board yoga, kayaking, bubble soccer, surf fitness classes, and even “clubbercising” (working out like you’re at a club). Enjoy a little fun and adventure!

  8. Walk, run, hike or bike the trails near you. Get in a great workout by hitting the trails near you. Whether your local parks and rec offer paved trails or natural surfaces, getting outside and engaging with your natural surroundings is as great for the body as it is for your mental health. Make sure to check the rules at each park as some might have different guidelines about shared use.

  9. Need a little extra help? Check with your local park and rec agency to determine if they offer one-on-one personal training programs. Working with a personal trainer can be a great way to get back into a fitness routine. A personal trainer will develop an individualized fitness program specifically for you, monitoring form and ensuring a safe and effective workout to get you the results you want. Want a tip when searching for a trainer? Select a trainer that is certified from a nationally accredited agency (ACSM, ACE, NASM) or holds a degree in Exercise Science. In addition, trainers typically have specialties so look for one that is well-matched to help you achieve your goals.

  10. Engage in other aspects of health. Over the last decade, park and rec agencies have branched out to offer programs covering all aspects of health and wellness. Engaging in programs like cooking classes, meditation, arts and crafts and educational lectures can engage your emotional, social, mental and physical well being, contributing to your overall health.

Try out some of these great ways to get fit in your local parks and rec and your family will enter the fall season on a healthy start!

How will you use your parks and rec to stay fit? Any suggestions you’d add to this list?

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