All-access pass to exercise
When The Trust for Public Land debuted its new wheelchair-accessible Fitness Zone® installation at Azalea Park in St. Petersburg, Florida, Paralympian Jen French was in attendance to help us celebrate. French, who brought home a silver medal in sailing from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, knows firsthand how challenging it can be to stay fit with a mobility impairment. That’s why she loves the idea of a wheelchair-accessible Fitness Zone, which offers an all-too-rare opportunity for the mobility impaired to exercise and strength train.
“Fitness is key for people with mobility impairments but it’s difficult to find accessible fitness outlets,” says French. “Your typical 24-Hour Fitness gym isn’t accessible. A Fitness Zone with accessibility is extremely valuable to the mobility-impaired population.”
An Inclusive Workout
Obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are major issues for people with mobility impairments. One study by The National Institutes for Health found that 62 percent of women with mobility impairments are overweight or obese.
French experienced this challenge firsthand after a snowboarding accident left her paraplegic in 1998. “It’s very easy to gain weight and very hard to lose it because aerobic activity is difficult in a wheelchair,” French says. “You have to find ways to exercise and be very conscious about your diet.”
The wheelchair-accessible equipment at The Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone installation in Azalea Park meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessibility. The equipment can be used by those with mobility impairments and the able-bodied alike thanks to its wide aisles, easy-rolling turf surface, and specially-designed equipment. Six different machines allow wheelchair users to target their biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, back, and core.
“This is the first time I’ve seen outdoor fitness equipment that’s appealing for people with mobility impairments,” says French. “We can exercise side -by-side with able-bodied folks and it’s an inclusive experience.”
Free and Accessible to All
In addition to being accessible to the mobility impaired population, The Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone installations are free and open to everyone in the community. “Making it affordable makes it accessible, too,” says French. “Not everyone has the financial means to join an exercise club.”
When Jen’s not training for the Paralympics (she’s currently staying mum on plans to be in Rio in 2016) Jen is on the advisory board for the City of St. Petersburg’s Committee to Advocate Persons with Impairments, or CAPI, program. The committee uses monies collected from handicapped parking space tickets to fund accessibility improvements throughout the city. She also just released her new book, On My Feet Again about her experience with neurotechnology.
“The city really appreciates what The Trust for Public Land has done for the community,” adds Jen. “It has been great partnering with you.”