BY MEGAN CARMICHAEL, Community Partnerships Coordinator
ST. PETERSBURG — Getting fit does more than improve your physical health: It can also reduce your stress. Chronic conditions such as high-blood pressure and diabetes become more manageable with diet and exercise, but there are also great gains to be made in one’s mood and attitude when fitness is part of your day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five American adults get enough exercise. About two-and-a-half hours of brisk walking spread out over a week, mixed with muscle-building exercise on two of those seven days, are the recommendations for most adults. Among African Americans, the rate of adults who meet the CDC’s guidelines for exercise drops to about 18 percent.
Why is it so important to get fit? Adults who are inactive have a higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers, all of which contribute to a low quality of life.
Many adults may want to exercise, but find it difficult to get a good workout because they can’t afford to join a gym or buy home equipment. That’s why the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas)—through its federally funded Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) grant—is making it easier for anyone to get fit in one of several Fitness Zones located from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. (PICH is funded by the CDC to improve access to healthy foods and physical fitness.)
What is a Fitness Zone? Think of them as sort of “gym playgrounds” for teens and adults. They’re located in parks throughout the county and are open during park hours. The equipment varies at each location, but all have workout stations that are people-powered. Instead of stacking weights, Fitness Zone stations use your body weight as resistance or use your motion to move your muscles to greater strength. Some equipment is accessible to people in wheelchairs, too.
Stations to work out the lower and upper body are in 15 park locations. (For a complete list, go to www.PinellasHealth.com and look for the “Programs and Services” tab. Under “Wellness,” you’ll find brochures listing Fitness Zones, recreation centers, farmers markets and produce stands.) All Fitness Zones are located outdoors, but some are equipped with covers.
St. Petersburg has five Fitness Zone locations. They’re at Azalea Park, Riviera Bay Park and at these recreation centers: Campbell Park, Gladden Park and Lake Vista. From elliptical workouts that pump the heart to leg-press machines that strengthen large muscles, go no further than to a Fitness Zone to find equipment anyone can use to get healthier at no cost.
Still looking for more ideas on active fun and healthy living? Find more locations at www.FindtheFunNow.com, PICH’s website of searchable, fun things to do and places to go anywhere in Pinellas.
For information about DOH-Pinellas, go to www.PinellasHealth.com or call (727) 824-6900.