10 Ways to Get Fit in Your Local Parks and Rec in 2016

By Allison Colman | Posted on January 22, 2016

1.22.16_blog_fitness_catsWe’re three weeks into the new year, and we hope you haven’t dropped your resolutions just yet. As the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, people looked back on 2015 with mixed emotions, remembering the great moments and achievements, thinking about opportunities that could have been better, and creating their resolutions for the next year. Resolutions were made to spend more time with families, read a new book each month, travel and explore, try new recipes, be more adventurous, or save more money. But the resolution made most—by 69 percent of people in 2015—was to get fit and healthy, lose weight, and keep the weight off. 


If this was your resolution, you may be wondering how to achieve your goals while still having fun (and not breaking your budget). While the popular Adele parody video will tell you to cut the donuts and mac and cheese, say goodbye to bagel bites, and suffer through painful lunges and dreaded push-ups, NRPA has come up with a better solution to help you reach your health goals this year. Use your parks and rec!


Here are our top 10 ways to get fit in your local parks and rec in 2016!


  1. 1.22.16_blog_fitness_aerobicsTake advantage of fitness classes. Group fitness is a great way to get a safe and effective workout. Added bonus? It’s a social experience keeping you accountable and less likely to drop out of a program! Park and recreation agencies offer a wide variety of fitness classes for every age group and fitness level. In addition, many agencies offer classes outdoors at local parks (sometimes for FREE). Check out a neighborhood Zumba class, stretch and connect with nature at a yoga or tai chi session, or try a high-intensity boot camp with friends. Check with your local park and rec agency to determine class offerings, schedules, location and pricing.

  2. Hit the courts or take the field. Still reminiscing about winning that championship game in the good ole’ days? Make some new memories this year! Join an adult recreational league through your local park and rec agency and compete for the next trophy on your shelf. Adult sports leagues are a great way to meet new friends and ignite your competitive side. Leagues can be found for almost any team or individual sport including tennis, basketball, softball, kickball, pickleball, volleyball, flag football, soccer and more!

  3. Test the waters. Check with your local agency to determine if any of their recreation centers have aquatics facilities. Exercising in the water can be a great way to get in a low-impact workout, eliminating the high impact stress that is placed on muscles and joints and reducing the risk of injury. It’s also perfect for anyone recovering from an injury or trying to regain strength in a specific muscle group. Try a water aerobics or aqua-training class, join a recreational swim team (for adults too!), or bring the kids to splash around and get out of the cold this winter.

  4. 1.22.16_blog_fitness_swimmingChallenge yourself to an indoor triathlon. Winter is the perfect time to expand your exercise routine! Some recreation centers already offer indoor triathlon competitions or training programs, but if yours doesn’t there is an easy way to organize your own. Challenge yourself to complete an indoor ironman over the course of 1 month at your local rec center. To complete the month-long ironman you’ll need to record 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and 26.2 miles running or walking. Who knows, at the end of the month you might just be inspired to sign up for a triathlon in your community!

  5. Play like a kid again. Remember when you were a kid and spent all day on the local playground until the dinner bell rang? No? Perhaps the dinner bell was only in my family. Either way, wake up your inner child and head to your neighborhood playground this year for a fun and super challenging workout.  Were you thinking of joining that super trendy CrossFit gym down the street? Well your neighborhood playground is the original CrossFit-style workout! The combination of monkey bars, pull-up bars, rings and climbing walls will target all of the major muscle groups in the upper body giving you a great workout at a great price (free)! 

  6. Pick a 5K for the whole family. Participating in a 5K is a great way to develop a training program and get into a routine. Train at your local park or recreation center and get your whole family on board. Ready to race? See if your park and recreation department has any upcoming races or can suggest any. You may even find one tied to a charity you care about. You’ll feel good for training and finishing the 5K and you’ll give back to your community! It’s a win-win.

  7. You just might be the next log rolling champion. Or not. But you’ll never know unless you try. In 2016, challenge yourself to try something new and adventurous with your local parks and rec! Agencies offer unique programs and classes including log rolling (yep), paddle boarding and paddle board yoga, kayaking, bubble soccer, surf fitness classes, and even “clubbercising” (working out like you’re at a club). Enjoy a little fun and adventure!1.22.16_blog_fitness_bubble_soccer 

  8. Walk, run, hike or bike the trails near you. Get in a great workout by hitting the trails near you. Whether your local parks and rec offer paved trails or natural surfaces, getting outside and engaging with your natural surroundings is as great for the body as it is for your mental health. Make sure to check the rules at each park as some might have different guidelines about shared use. 

  9. Need a little extra help? Check with your local park and rec agency to determine if they offer one-on-one personal training programs. Working with a personal trainer can be a great way to get back into a fitness routine. A personal trainer will develop an individualized fitness program specifically for you, monitoring form and ensuring a safe and effective workout to get you the results you want. Want a tip when searching for a trainer? Select a trainer that is certified from a nationally accredited agency (ACSM, ACE, NASM) or holds a degree in Exercise Science. In addition, trainers typically have specialties so look for one that is well-matched to help you achieve your goals.  

  10. 1.22.16_blog_fitness_meditateEngage in other aspects of health. Over the last decade park and rec agencies have branched out to offer programs covering all aspects of health and wellness. Engaging in programs like cooking classes, meditation, arts and crafts and educational lectures can engage your emotional, social, mental and physical well-being, contributing to your overall health.


Try out some of these great ways to get fit in your local parks and rec and 2016 will be your year of health and wellness!


How will you use your parks and rec to stay fit in 2016?

Allison Colman is NRPA's Program Manager.