County launches Step It Up! Family Fitness Club
Residents offered opportunity to participate in free community walks
Encouraging residents to be a part of the healthy revolution and get moving toward their fitness goals, the Prince George’s County Health Department and De- partment of Parks and Recreation partnered together to kick-off the county’s newest exercise and wellness campaign, Step It Up! Family Fitness Club, during a free walk/ run event on April 27 at the Oxon Hill Manor.
Step It Up! aims to provide a routine activity where county residents can come together as families, friends, co-workers and neighbors for a social fitness experience. The free club is designed to create a fun and friendly space for residents to work towards their fitness goals together as they explore scenic parks, tracks and trails; reduce the risk for developing and combat all forms of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis; reduce the risk for developing chronic diseases; and allow residents to learn more about the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s (M-NCPPC) programs, according to the health department’s website.
“Step It Up! Is just one of many partnerships that we do in Prince George’s County where we’re trying to get more people active,” Department of Parks and Recreation Director Ronnie Gathers said. “It’s associated with a functional master plan that we just got approved by the [county] council a couple of years ago in which we’re trying to
introduce 75 percent of our [physical activity] programs to help our communities get healthier. This happens to be a partnership with the health department which was really initiated by them and so we want to be a strong supporter of that.”
M-NCPPC’s Department of Parks and Recreation works closely with the community and elected officials to assess needs and determine priorities for parks and recreation facilities in Prince George’s County. The public has recognized the benefits of recreation and parks as essential to their health and quality of life. A recent community survey conducted during the development of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan found that construction of more trails in the county was the number one priority among county residents. As such, the recently adopted and approved Formula 2040 Functional Master Plan recommended the completion of 400 miles of hard and soft surface trails by 2040, according to the Prince George’s Parks website.
“This is huge for the community and the residents because it builds community. When you can design events that’s going to get people together who wouldn’t ordinarily come together, that helps you to get to know your neighbor and then engage in a physical activity sort of effort that’s going to help your health overall,” said Gathers. “Then you start to think about [how you can make yourself] even more healthier because activity does work.”
From now until November, residents can participate in 15 different community trails – on the first and third Wednesday of every month – at meeting locations throughout the county.
“We’re really excited because we are all about healthy eating and active living,” said Pamela B. Creekmur, the county’s health officer for almost five years. “People just really need to do what’s easy and convenient for them, but they just need to move. That’s our whole thing.”
About 15.4 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 to 19 in the county are classified as obese and 17.1 percent of children, aged 2 to 4, who participate in federally funded health and nutrition programs are obese. For adults, nearly 67.6 percent are classified as overweight or obese. Only 47.4 percent of adults living in Prince George’s County engage in regular physical activity, according to the health department’s website.
When it comes to prevention, Creekmur said making healthy choices and learning how to maintain one’s health starts at an early age.
“I see need in both areas. I do think our kids need to move more. We’re seeing trends in that direction. Childhood obesity numbers for our county are going down so that is going in the right direction. For our adults, [those numbers] are pretty static,” Creekmur said. “If we start with the little people teaching them the healthy choices to make and that they need to move to maintain their health, that’s more bang for your buck. But we need all of our residents to move. ... You can walk around your neighborhood and that’s the whole reason we’re doing this—we want an inexpensive, easy, fun thing for people to do to get moving.”
Prince George’s County Planning Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Hewlett said she couldn’t be more excited about the Step It Up! program which not only speaks to the needs of the entire county, but also promotes family interaction, togetherness and good health.
“It’s imperative that we take care of our health and intellectually, we all know that but putting it into practice is two different things,” said Hewlett. “This is a family-fun activity that the entire family can participate in and it brings families together. It has incidental benefits over and above your health … and that’s a win-win.”
The Department of Parks and Recreation is also working to finalize recommendations – and get approval from the planning board by this summer – for its newest project, the Trails Master Plan, which will guide the development of the countywide park-trail system that supports recreation opportunities and connectivity while balancing resources to maintain and expand the system. The plan focuses on improving residents’ access to important recreational venues in the county; providing connections to jobs and transportation facilities; supporting health and wellness activities; and enhancing the county’s economic development.
“The many activities that we do all over the county have to be embraced by partners throughout. The health department is just one of them so this is a natural fit,” Gathers said.
The next community event will be the Healthy Trails 5K Walk/Run held May 7, 8 a.m. at the Lake Artemesia Natural Area in College Park.