A few weeks ago, the International City/County Manager’s Association (ICMA) held its annual conference. ICMA is a professional organization of local government leaders Whose purpose is to advance professional local government worldwide.
At the conference, ICMA leaders recognized the City of San Antonio with a prestigious Local Government Program Excellence Award for our “Fitness in the Park” program. San Antonio took home the top award in the Community Health & Safety Program category, for cities 50,000 and larger.
As many of you know, Fitness in the Park uses outdoor space at City parks to offer exercise classes such as zumba, yoga, and boot camp fitness to residents at no cost.
The program began in 2011 as one of several health and wellness initiatives funded through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, with the goal of helping San Antonio residents establish healthy, active lifestyles and combat obesity-related diseases.
Fitness in the Park brings fitness options to areas of the city where residents might not otherwise have access to organized fitness activities. Exercise classes that usually require a gym membership are now available to all residents at no cost. Residents also have the opportunity to try different types of exercise, with the hope they will find something to make a permanent part of their lifestyle.
The program has grown from volunteers providing seasonal classes for eight to ten weeks into a year-round program. Since the fall of 2011, the Fitness in the Park program has conducted more than 4,000 free classes, with more than 35,000 in attendance. In addition to breaking down “barriers to fitness,” the program has the added benefit of introducing residents to the many facilities and parks available in San Antonio.
Between 2010 and 2012, the obesity rate in Bexar County dropped from 35% to 28.5%, which is now just below the state average. That drop means that, over a two year period, 70,000 adults moved from obesity to a healthier weight.
Fitness in the Park is one of many initiatives that Parks, Metro Health, and community partners have developed in the last few years to transform San Antonio into a more active, physically fit community.