By Allie Gardner Ferguson of the Trust for Public Land
After a stroke robbed him of his sight and independence, Vietnam veteran Michael Perryman's health began to deteriorate. He was losing weight and strength quickly, and was always tired. Then his sister learned about The Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone® at her neighborhood park in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“I immediately thought of Michael and how wonderful it would be for him to be outdoors and to exercise again,” recalls Sue Deveney, Michael’s sister.
Living on a fixed income, Michael can’t afford a gym membership. His visual impairment prevents him from taking long walks or playing a round of golf as he used to do. Without regular exercise -- a critical component of stroke recovery – Michael’s health was not improving. He’s not alone; many Americans live in areas that lack access to exercise opportunities, areas sometimes called "fitness deserts.”
The Trust for Public Land's Fitness Zones are easy-to-use outdoor gyms that bring a new set of healthy activities to the park experience. These Fitness Zones create a fun, accessible and social environment where people can enjoy getting fit. While we already know that getting outdoors makes people healthier and happier, Fitness Zones take that one step further by giving people free access to top-quality exercise equipment suitable for all fitness levels.
Since discovering the Fitness Zone, Sue and Michael walk the short distance from Michael’s house to Gladden Park three times a week for his workout on the nine pieces of strength-training and cardio equipment, including an overhead press, a cross-country ski station, and chest and leg presses.
“Anyone can use our Fitness Zones,” explains William Lorenzen, Fitness Zone project manager with The Trust for Public Land, an EarthShare member organization. “You don't need to be in shape, have disposable income, or a high level of skill to work out here. It's free and open to the public.”
Research shows that access to parks is essential for keeping people and communities healthy and happy. Easy access to parks and outdoor gyms increases frequency and intensity of exercise, and people are more likely to exercise when in groups or social environments. A study of TPL’s Los Angeles Fitness Zones by the RAND Corporation found that users burned more calories.
With help from the Combined Federal Campaign and EarthShare, The Trust for Public Land is looking to build more Fitness Zones and parks around the nation. The Trust for Public Land works to conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places. The organization’s focus ranges from the inner city to the wilderness, ensuring livable communities for generations to come.
Michael may have lost the ability to do many of his favorite activities, but he hasn't lost his sunny outlook. Sue says Michael has never once complained about his situation. He's completely focused on his recovery.
“I’ve become very dependent on my sister since the stroke,” says Michael. “My goal is to get back into shape and The Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone is a big help.”