Problem Solver - August 2011
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Fight Obesity With Park & Playground Elements

Obesity is still on the rise among Americans. A recent report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released in July shows that adult obesity increased in 16 states in the past year, with no states reporting a decline in obesity rates, There are 12 states now with obesity rates over 30 percent, and just one state has an obesity rate lower than 20 percent. (Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate over 15 percent.)

Given the impact obesity has on health, leading to severe problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, it is crucial to combat this trend. Luckily parks and recreation professionals have tools to keep people active.

Q: We want to help address rising levels of obesity among children. Is there something we can do to help get kids more active?

A: While the obesity rates among adults are alarming, the crisis for children is equally troubling. Recent research shows that one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight, and more than 12 million children and teens are currently considered obese.

Getting children up and moving is essential to address this growing problem. But it doesn't have to be difficult. Children are naturally drawn to playgrounds. When you include playgrounds in your park, you'll be helping kids exercise, and they won't even realize it's a workout.

You can find challenging play systems that are designed to keep kids moving. Look for elements that develop motor skills for various parts of the body, from overhead climbers for working the arms and shoulders to bridges that help kids learn to balance.

From the playground, you can then branch out in ways that will help parents set a good example by getting active too.

Q: How can I help adults get more active in the park?

A: The obesity rate among adults is a challenge, but encouraging them to be active need not be. When parents are actively supervising their children on the playground, they're already getting in a little activity. But when you add specific elements to your site, you can take their activity level up a notch, while also encouraging other patrons to visit for a tough workout.

Consider adding additional elements near the playground that allow parents to work out while the kids play. Others will also be drawn to incorporate these areas into their daily walk through the park. You can find outdoor exercise equipment that is specifically designed to fit into the context of your park site.

Parents will be delighted to find something to do while their kids are active. They'll be able to work their entire body, setting a good example for their children that engaging in exercise can be a fun, lifelong habit.

You might also consider incorporating a trail, which will allow participants to walk from station to station. They'll get in a good cardio workout as they move along the trail, with bursts of additional activity as they encounter each exercise element.


Playland International: 800-356-4727