When the COVID-19 pandemic forced gyms to close in 2020, many in the fitness industry quickly pivoted to delivering their physical activity programs outdoors.
Some exercise professionals in the U.S. were able to secure a shared use agreement (SUA), or a similar permit, from their local government.
This allowed them to use accessible public outdoor spaces to continue providing their exercise programs or classes. In many cases, this was made possible through less rigid permitting processes adopted specifically for the pandemic.
The Moving Together Outside Campaign believes that SUAs and their associated permits are a critical tool to increase physical activity opportunities—and more local governments should consider establishing these types of permitting models. Read on to learn why.
What are SUAs and where are they used?
Shared use agreements authorize the use of accessible public spaces—parks, under-utilized schoolyards, and green spaces—by certified exercise professionals and other community organizations to deliver safe, structured physical activity programming.
Cities across the U.S. have adopted SUAs, including San Diego, CA; Long Beach, CA; Washington, D.C.; Austin, TX; and Boston, MA.
But SUAs can be effectively implemented anywhere across the nation, from densely populated urban areas to small towns. The outdoor spaces suitable for exercise programs are typically convenient, accessible, and affordable for the majority of the population.
Recent CDC guideline updates also mention that fully vaccinated individuals may find exercising outdoors more comfortable with eased mask-wearing recommendations.
Therefore, for those Americans adopting outdoor physical activity routines, SUAs provide a long-term solution for increasing physical activity well into future decades.
Why should we keep SUAs in place after the pandemic ends?
SUAs offer excellent benefits for local governments, exercise professionals, and communities at large. Not to mention, they are an inclusive and accessible approach to public health throughout the nation.
- Grow your relationship with the local community over the long term. By offering SUAs, you’re showing your community that you’re committed to improving public health for all who live there.
- Create a more engaged, connected community. Pandemic isolation has taken a toll on many Americans. Outdoor group exercise programs and classes provide a safe, healthy opportunity for people to reconnect with one another.
- Increase revenue by making a positive impact. SUAs for exercise programs and providers provide a reliable stream of revenue to local governments while simultaneously creating a positive impact on the health of all community members.
- Sustainably grow your career for the long run. Offering classes and workouts outdoors gives you greater visibility to prospective clients. It also helps you develop a trusted model for structured outdoor exercise in general, which can be used no matter what public health issues may arise in the future.
- Expand your impact on peoples’ lives. Since outdoor exercise classes can be more appealing to folks who may find indoor gyms and studios intimidating, you will have the opportunity to help a greater number of people reach their health and physical activity goals.
- Grow professional partnerships. Working with your local government via SUAs could create opportunities for future collaborations, like offering classes through community or recreation centers.
- Give vulnerable populations a safe space to exercise. Not all people in the U.S. have access to a safe outdoor space in which they can move and exercise freely. SUAs help ensure that they do.
- Participate in convenient, accessible structured physical activity. Folks who are limited to public transportation can participate in affordable outdoor exercise classes that are just a couple bus stops away, or even within walking distance.
- Connect and engage with other physically active neighbors. Outdoor exercise classes foster a sense of community among participants. It’s a great opportunity to meet other folks who share and support one another’s health and fitness goals.
Shared use agreements are a win-win for everyone across the U.S. To learn more about implementing SUAs in your community, visit https://general.acefitness.org/moving-together-outside.