Keep Healthy on a Shoestring – Tips for Using Public and Civic Spaces

When you are trying to be healthy, there are many options available to you. That said, gym memberships can be burdensome. Factor in the cost of healthy food, and keeping healthy can begin to feel like you are bench-pressing a heavy load without a spotter.

There is hope though – stay healthy in any season by utilizing your community’s public spaces and civic organizations. Meet your goals without breaking the bank with these options.

Parks – The US has a total of 417 national parks in their stewardship, so there is never a park far away. Many communities also have locally managed parks either within walking distance or a short drive away. A quick google search will tell you where the parks in your area are located. Some parks are simply a gravel path and a few basketball or tennis courts. Others are acres of forest land with hiker-friendly trails and open spaces. Furthermore, other communities have networks of connecting trails that allow visitors and residents to see the city by foot or by bike.

Parks are accessible at any time of year with a little bit of planning. As the old saying goes, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing”. In hot summer months, choose clothes that wick sweat, and start your visit earlier in the day to avoid dehydration and heat-related illness. In the winter, choose activities in the late afternoon, when the weather is most hospitable to toes and noses. Anyone can have a great trail run in February if they make sure to wear protective clothing.

Parks are also a great place to bring your dog (or if you’re a dog walker or pet sitter, your clients’ dogs). Some public parks have dog runs where you can play a game of fetch (and let Fido run off excess energy in the process). Other parks allow dogs on a leash. To avoid disappointment, be sure to look up the rules of the park before you head out. If the park is pet-friendly, be a friendly pet owner and come prepared with waste bags.

Running in a park

Churches – Many churches and religious institutions offer classes or gym equipment at a free or discounted rate to their community, not just their members. Some examples include meditation, tai chi, aerobics, and yoga. Churches consider this part of the service to their neighbors. This can be an especially welcoming place if gyms make you uncomfortable. Remember, this is part of their outreach to the community, so you should find the environment warm and inviting.

Civic Organizations – In addition to parks, your Parks & Rec offers other health-focused options. You’ll find this department runs community classes and golf courses. This can be especially useful for families on a budget, or folks looking for activities that are easier on the joints. For example, your Parks & Rec department may offer children’s training programs for their first 5K race. They may have water aerobics or swimming lessons year-round for all ages. They may also hold classes that are more unusual such as archery, or that show off the parks such as soccer or softball. This organization can be a great place for older adults to join a team that isn’t competitive just to get a little exercise and fun!

Clubs There are many social clubs that are built around shared stories and interests. These can be especially helpful for people who need a little accountability. For example,Moms Run This Town’ has local chapters of moms who meet for weekly runs. Because they are all moms, they understand the demands of their busy lives and support each other. Hospitals with a vested interest in keeping the community healthy may offer free nutrition classes or cooking demonstrations. If your diagnosis requires you to eat more heart-healthy or low-sugar food, this can be a wonderful place to learn, and meet other people who have the same needs. Athletic goods stores sometimes offer free training runs, or a weekly fun run that ends with a social element.

Staying fit in any season or in any city may seem like an insurmountable task, but by connecting to the resources in your community, you may not only stay fit, but meet some wonderful neighbors and friends in the process!

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Paige Johnson considers herself to be a fitness nerd. She is passionate and committed to helping other people take care of themselves. Ms. Johnson writes for LearnFit. She has a great love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist.



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