County launches Step It Up! Fam­ily Fit­ness Club

Res­i­dents of­fered op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in free com­mu­nity walks

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­

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.

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