American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

The COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the physical activity and exercise world. During this time, municipalities across the U.S. substantially eased permitting processes. This helped normalize the adoption of shared-use agreements (SUAs) or similar agreements for structured outdoor exercise programs.  

Even as indoor gyms and exercise facilities begin to safely reopen, outdoor exercise is a trend that is expected to continue. This presents an excellent opportunity for the fitness industry to reach a new audience and develop more substantive ties to the larger community. 

As such, the Moving Together Outside Campaign is working to ensure that SUAs continue to be issued and are more readily available across the nation and make green exercise a mainstay in the realm of physical activity. 

Why should green exercise continue after the pandemic ends?

The benefits of green exercise—physical activity that takes place in natural environments—are significant. They include improved mood, enhanced self-esteem, and a greater sense of connection to nature and the community. These positive outcomes are more essential than ever after the extended distress and isolation of a global pandemic. 

Another important reason to continue to grow green exercise programs post-pandemic is that they expand access to structured physical activity for millions of Americans. This is particularly true for communities that are most vulnerable to lifestyle-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Green exercise removes a number of significant barriers to physical activity that exist in such communities, including: 

  • Accessibility—Outdoor exercise classes can be held in convenient neighborhood public spaces that are within walking distance for most community members.
  • Affordability—Group exercise classes are an affordable alternative to 1:1 personal training services, and participants still get the benefit of a live, professional instructor.  
  • Safety—Green exercise classes are held in public locations and can influence safety in the areas they are held. They are also taught by certified exercise professionals who are well trained in safely running their classes.   

By making SUAs and similar agreements for green exercise permanent, vulnerable communities will have access to high-quality, safe physical activity now and in the future.

How to make sure green exercise stays for good

As access to green exercise expands across the nation, it is important that several key requirements are met so that people want to continue to participate in it. Here are some ways to do that. 

  • Keep it affordable—One of the main goals of the Moving Together Outside Campaign is to advocate for incorporating more activity-based programs into our communities, especially communities that need it the most. This can only happen if green exercise classes remain affordable. 
  • Make it convenient—People are more inclined to exercise if it is easy and convenient to do so. SUAs and similar agreements should grant the use of green exercise in safe, centrally located public spaces.  
  • Get certified exercise professionals on board—Green exercise can really help grow the careers of certified exercise professionals. It can give them more visibility, allow for larger class sizes, and grant the opportunity to truly impact the lives of people who need it the most. 
  • Offer in-demand group classes—To maintain the interest and participation of green-exercise attendees, be sure to offer the same popular group exercise classes that are in high demand at traditional indoor gyms and exercise studios. Even if slight modifications are required, that will only serve to add a fresh, new take on the program—and may even engage additional participants. 

Are you passionate about making sure green exercise sticks around long after the pandemic ends? Visit the Moving Together Campaign website to learn how you can help!