The COVID-19 pandemic fueled the demand for access to more safe, structured outdoor exercise programs across the nation.
But nearly a decade before the pandemic hit, one father-and-son team was already looking ahead at how they could help every neighborhood in America get its own outdoor fitness park. Read on to learn more about the inspiring mission of FitLot Fitness Parks.
On a mission to bring outdoor fitness to the masses
FitLot launched in 2012 out of Propeller’s Social Innovation Incubator by Adam Mejerson and his father, Dr. Vadim Mejerson, who holds a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology.
For over 30 years, Dr. Mejerson trained hundreds of individuals at his private fitness facility at the Mejerson home in Connecticut. Adam grew up using the facility’s equipment, and felt grateful he had someone he trusted to teach him how to use it.
After the massive destruction of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Adam pursued a career in Community Development— with the particular goal of helping vulnerable and underserved communities rebuild after losing everything.
Adam’s strong belief in the healing power of physical activity led to the creation of FitLot. These high-quality, public fitness parks offer an accessible, free way to improve the health and quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the country.
The FitLot Fitness Park fits everyone
The Mejersons, alongside a team of professional designers and builders, carefully crafted the FitLot Outdoor Fitness Park to suit people of all ages and abilities. Local governments and municipalities can purchase FitLot’s affordable fitness parks and install them throughout their community’s neighborhood public parks.
Each FitLot park is around 1,400 square feet in size. It is shaded, safety-surfaced, and features both static and moveable fitness equipment for strength, cardio, balance, and flexibility training. The fitness parks give community members all the important benefits of an indoor gym facility at no charge.
And because the FitLot park design and layout is consistent across the country, FitLot can easily provide uniform training materials and facilitate community programs with local park managers.
How to grow an active community & the role of local government
According to Adam, there is one simple thing local governments can do to help increase movement and physical activity in their region.
“In order to foster an active community, physical activity must be fun and easy to access,” Adam said. Specifically, this means:
- More people need to live within a ten-minute walk of a structured, safe outdoor fitness space.
- The built environment needs to be conducive to physical activity so that it is easy for people to get and stay physically active.
- Fostering a culture of physical activity within communities is key. When this happens, there is a community of support that helps people stay motivated and engaged.
- Local governments can continue improving their parks and green spaces so that community members have safe, welcoming public spaces to exercise in.
“It is our hope at FitLot that cities around the country will start thinking strategically about how to create equitable access to outdoor fitness parks throughout their communities,” Adam explained. “By offering local governments affordable, easy-to-implement outdoor fitness parks, we believe it is totally possible for every playground in the U.S. to also include a structured fitness space for the use of parents and grandparents.”
Adam believes that the goal of ACE’s Moving Together Outside campaign to help create more shared-use agreements (SUAs) and similar permits aligns very well with the mission and work of FitLot.
“SUAs help bring more activity and programming to outdoor community spaces so that more people have opportunities to get active,” he said. “There’s no question that parks and green spaces are one of the most important health equity tools communities have at their disposal.”
FitLot Fitness Parks give communities the resources they need to plan, build, and activate their own outdoor fitness parks so that there are welcoming, dedicated spaces for physical activity and safe community fitness classes.
“But where a FitLot Fitness park isn't available, SUAs fill in the equity gap to ensure that a soccer field or other green space can easily be activated by a fitness professional for a group class,” Adam said. “It's a win-win.”
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.