Your journey to fitness and weight training, and building muscle and bone, is as close as a walk, run or bike ride on Calgary’s many pathways. The City of Calgary has over 200 pieces of permanent weight training and exercise equipment scattered along the pathways in clusters or separately along pathways forming a circuit.
And this summer the City will have instructors at five locations to help users navigate the equipment and lead you in exercises at no cost. This pilot project to have instructors available is designed specifically for people over age 65, but anyone can take part in the scheduled drop-in fitness program, says AJ Matsune, Calgary Recreation program co-ordinator.
“We’d like to give people an opportunity to try the equipment, and to give them a way to be active in parks,” she says.
A 2015 Alberta Survey on Physical Activity shows just 42% of Albertans over age 65 are physically active enough to benefit their health. Exercise is one of the most important things older adults can do to maintain physical and mental health as well as quality of life, according to The Canadian Centre for Active Living.
“We feel (also that the equipment) isn’t utilized as much as we’d like,” AJ says, noting permanent exercise equipment has been in Calgary parks for several years. “Trying the equipment is easier with an instructor.”
Julie Guimond, lead of environmental education for Calgary Parks, says adults are hesitant to use park exercise equipment because think they need permission to use it or that it’s there for someone else.
“Bringing in an instructor and signage lets people know the equipment is there for them,” Julie says. “It’s intimidating to use equipment when you don’t know how. Providing help from an instructor gives people that competence and confidence. The goal of this pilot is to determine if usage increases in existing and new mobile outdoor fitness sites in order to improve physical and social well-being in Calgarians (particularly older adults); to decrease barriers to usage of outdoor fitness equipment by providing free fitness training opportunities in community parks; and to decrease isolation of older adult populations by facilitating active social interactions.”
Calgary Recreation is providing fitness instructors from June to September to introduce you to the equipment and coach you on how to use it. Instructors will be at two sites that have permanent equipment and three sites where mobile equipment will be brought in. A leg press, step-up and recumbent bike are some of the equipment that will be available.
Instructors will teach stretches and exercises. Circuit training will include the use of trees, curbs and benches. And hand-held fitness equipment will be available.
Having instructors at fitness parks was one of the strategies from the Inclusive Playground Implementation Plan that City Council approved this winter. The pilot this summer is funded from Community Service Preventative Investment Funding.
Participants will be able to comment on their experience using the equipment with evaluation forms available at the five locations.
By Louise Gibbs