American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

The mission of the Moving Together Outside campaign is simple: to increase the number of shared-use agreements (SUAs) across the country so that safe, structured outdoor exercise programs are accessible to all. 

Expanding the availability of SUAs is one important way local governments can help ensure all community members—especially those in underrepresented areas—have improved access to convenient, affordable green exercise options. 

But the City of St. Petersburg, Florida has gone one step further. Their city-led Healthy St. Pete Initiative is a collaborative effort to advance the health and well-being of all St. Petersburg’s community members. 

The goals of Healthy St. Pete and how it started

Healthy St. Pete is an initiative of the City of St. Petersburg, operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. It was launched by Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin, who previously served as a hospital administrator.

“Dr. Tomalin wanted to bring attention to health inequities in St. Petersburg and increase access to wellness opportunities,” said Christie Bruner, Community Engagement Supervisor for Healthy St. Pete. “Through Healthy St. Pete, the city can better implement institutional change and build community capacity through education and partnership.” 

The mission of Healthy St. Pete is to do the following: 

  • Build a culture of health in St. Petersburg by making “the healthy choice” the easy choice through a collaborative community effort
  • Work to improve health outcomes, reduce health inequities, and strive to implement policies and programs that give all people in St. Petersburg the opportunity to reach and enjoy optimal health
  • Encourage the St. Petersburg community to Eat, Shop, Live, and Play Healthy in a city “where the sun shines on all”

Providing accessible outdoor exercise to all community members

Healthy St. Pete uses data-informed decisions to determine the placement of its programs and projects. These analyses help the initiative’s leaders understand which areas of St. Petersburg could benefit most from the programs.  

“In addition to collecting primary data directly from our residents, our Health St. Pete team incorporates secondary data from sources such as CDC, BRFSS, the U.S. Census Bureau,” Christie said. “That helped us pinpoint our city’s areas with the highest incidence of obesity and lack of physical activity, and focus on implementing accessible fitness programming there.” 

One example of this effort was adding more free Get Fit St. Pete park fitness classes in those at-risk areas.  

“Our Get Fit St. Pete program includes eight classes each month in various high-need areas throughout the city,” Christie said. “Classes are taught by local fitness professionals who donate their time to the program.” 

Get Fit St. Pete workout programs offer something for everyone. “The classes range from yoga to trail running to aqua fitness to pickleball and more,” she said. “This programming model could be easily replicated in other municipalities using parkland or even shared-use areas such as places of worship or private sector property.” 

Rolling out impactful programs like Healthy St. Pete in your city 

Since its launch in 2015, Healthy St. Pete has already reached some major milestones

The initiative has engaged over 10,000 community members, partnered with more than 60 community organizations and local businesses, and developed a comprehensive online resource library. 

“My advice to other cities that might want to roll out a program similar to Healthy St. Pete is to first seek out partnerships from all parts of your community—for-profit, nonprofit, religious, educational, healthcare, and so many more,” she said. 

Many of these organizations have similar goals and strategic plans that align with the goals of a municipality or their Parks and Recreation department.  

“By combining forces, organizations can amplify their reach and impact,” Christie said. “And this is the real key to increasing healthy outcomes in our communities.” 

To learn more about how you can help increase public health in your city, visit the Moving Together Outside campaign website.