By Tim Mertz, Sr. Director, Collegiate & Community Recreation
At HealthFitness, we believe movement matters—so much so that we’ve made it our job to create environments to get (and keep) people moving.
From faith-based communities, to hospitals to municipalities, we guide community residents to make better wellbeing choices and support them as they swim, exercise, play and learn.
When you consider that Americans are pushing a nearly 40 percent obesity rate and only 23 percent get enough exercise, it’s more important than ever to engage community members in their health and wellbeing. (1)
But alleviating loneliness is just as crucial. Almost half of Americans feel lonely, with research suggesting that loneliness may rival obesity as a threat to people’s health. (2)
That’s why the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) recommends engaging in physical activity often is easier for people when they can join with others in groups, and support and motivate each other.
According to the ODPHP, by engaging communities in physical activity, community center wellness experts can help people share knowledge about the benefits of physical activity, develop awareness about opportunities to be physically active, and overcome barriers and negative attitudes that may exist about exercises. (3)
The importance of engaging communities in fitness and recreation
You may know HealthFitness as a comprehensive wellbeing provider that delivers wellness, fitness and recreation, and injury prevention and treatment programs to organizations.
But, in addition to providing fitness, recreational and aquatics programming, professional staffing and management services to our community recreation centers, here are five ways we integrate into the community and vitalize the communities we serve.
1. Keep swimming
Our team of 60 HealthFitness professionals at Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford, Conn., serve and engage thousands of families throughout the area. The Aquatics Center features two different pools at two temperatures to meet the needs of the community—including competitive swimming and programming offered to youths, high schools, and adults. The aquatics program enables the Center to provide a valuable community service, including certifying more than 100 lifeguards!
2. Support a popular community event
Our team at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Fitness Center, a municipal center owned by the city of Bethel, Alaska, and, for the past two-and-a half years, managed by HealthFitness, hosted several “mushers,” including one Iditarod champion who had visited Bethel to participate in the Kuskokwim 300, the world’s premiere mid-distance dog sled race and one of the toughest in the state of Alaska.
HealthFitness sponsored miles 290-294, with all funds going directly to the race. Mushers were given access to the Fitness Center so they could shower, use the pool or hot tub and generally, relax before and after the race. After 300 miles outside in below freezing temperatures, the mushers appreciated getting up to their ears in hot tub water.
3. Volunteer for a cause
Approximately 63 million Americans—25 percent of the adult population—volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference in their communities. (4) This includes our clients, who have learned that running, walking or biking for charity is a great idea. It only takes a few hours at most, participants raise money for a good cause, and they can get healthy—all at the same time!
At a leading regional health care system in Wisconsin our on-site team at the health and fitness center hosts an indoor triathlon to support the community’s local multiple sclerosis (MS) organization, Just Keep Moving
More than 45 participants swim 15 minutes, bike 20 minutes and run 20 minutes. The event attracts local families and community members who lend their support by volunteering and cheering on participants during the race.
4. Reach out to the youth
When our team at a leading health and wellness center in southeast Texas learned that the state had the seventh-highest obesity rate in the country (6), they made it their mission to reach out local school districts to promote healthy living. Today, our team sponsors a new after-school activities program that includes sports-specific movement techniques, recreational games, swimming, cardiovascular and body weight condition—as well as time for homework.
5. Partner with local community leaders and employers
Our staff at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Fitness Center proactively engages the community, partnering with local businesses to develop membership opportunities for their employees, and working with the local hospital to promote healthy community events. Given radio is the most effective way to reach members of the community, the Center records Public Service Announcements promoting their activities with the local radio station.
and discover how we can help you provide community members the motivation they need to get moving and stay moving.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr112.pdf
3. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force https://health.gov/news/blog/2012/06/engaging-fitness-in-the-community/
4. Source: Nonproiftsource.com https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/
5. MS Just Keep Moving: http://msjustkeepmoving.org/
6. State of Obesity: https://stateofobesity.org/states/tx/