Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Walk or Ride, Get Moving San Antonio: San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department Encourages People to Get Active, Get Fit

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Walk or Ride, Get Moving San Antonio: San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department Encourages People to Get Active, Get Fit

Article excerpt

How can park and recreation agencies encourage people to become more active? Building fitness-related park amenities such as trails and fitness equipment was one of the first steps for the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department, but staff knew it would take more. Residents needed encouragement to hit the more than 120 miles of trails in city parks, including 45 miles of paved greenway trails. From this positive challenge came an array of new programming to help residents get moving.

To give residents an additional incentive to use these great amenities the department developed the Ride to Own bicycle program, initially funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) federal stimulus dollars. Ride to Own offered opportunities for individuals to participate in educational sessions such as bicycle safety, bicycle maintenance, developing routes, etc., and a series of bicycle rides of increasing distances. Participants who completed a required number of educational sessions and rides earned a bicycle to keep at the end of the program. In the initial installment, more than 300 participants from eight community centers received new bikes. The department has continued this program through additional grant opportunities. "This program teaches residents how to ride safely and maximize fitness, and gives them the tools to make cycling part of their regular exercise routine after the session ends," says Mayor Julian Castro.

As an offshoot of Ride to Own, the department created the Walk This Way San Antonio program. Walk This Way targeted average citizens to get them out of the house and walking. The program offered a series of educational sessions in addition to walks of increasing length. It also provided an incentive to the participants who completed the required number of educational sessions and walks in the form of a gift certificate for a shoe fitting and pair of walking shoes (valued at $100) from a local shoe store. In the initial offering, 180 participants at 10 community centers received vouchers after completing the program. By reaching out to walking and running resources already available in San Antonio, staff members were able to create a comprehensive walking instruction toolkit. The educational sessions included information on:

* Walking equipment (proper shoes, clothing, water bottles, flashlights, etc.);

* Correct posture and walking techniques to help prevent injuries;

* Guidelines and demonstrations for appropriate stretching;

* Walking safety (walking in pairs/small groups, not listening to music or having other distractions that detract from awareness, avoiding stray dogs, etc. …

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