PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY - The Step It Up! Family Fitness Club program campaign aims to help Prince George’s County residents live a healthier lifestyle.
The fitness club was organized by the office of County Executive Rushern Baker III in collaboration with the Prince George’s County Health Department and the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation.
The purpose of the campaign is to foster family-friendly fitness opportunities that are not only vital for health reasons, but to also strengthen community relations between government officials and residents. Additionally, the partnership between the health department and the county’s parks and recreation department informs residents about other community resources available throughout the county. The fitness campaign allows the health department to engage and provide critical information and resources at these events.
Baker explained his inspiration for creating the fitness club.
“In recent years, I have found running to be a wonderful exercise that has been a critical necessity for my own health and stress relief. I started running just after becoming county executive by running with our police and fire cadets,” he said. “I discovered that running and walking are not only great for staying fit, but also wonderful ways to meet and engage with others. Therefore, I wanted to create regular opportunities for anyone in the county to meet other Prince Georgians as well as our fabulous employees in both our health and parks departments.”
The Step It Up! Family Fitness Club meets on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from June through November and is free for all participants. The fitness group runs and walks at different parks, trails and tracks throughout Prince George’s County. Each event has on-site registration.
While the parks and recreation department offers its trails and facilities to the fitness club’s participants to make the campaign possible, the county’s health department spreads pertinent health-related information to residents.
The county staff gets to experience the benefits of exercise as well, in addition to fostering stronger relationships with communities.
“You also get to be a part of the community that is trying to help themselves and their families, so it’s a support system as well,” said Rae Wallace, marketing manager for Prince George’s parks and recreation.
The fitness club comes at a crucial time in which chronic illness, such as obesity and heart disease, is on the rise in Prince George’s County. In an effort to combat these health issues, the fitness club welcomes all people to get active and educated about the best health practices so they can incorporate them in their life.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to create that community for residents, as well as give them an opportunity to be healthier in a way that is fun and takes the stress and drama away from being healthy,” Wallace said.
Although the fitness club is a fairly new initiative, it has already garnered approval from some. One resident, Stephanie Williams, stumbled upon the fitness club on the county’s parks and recreation website as she looked for exercise activities for the summer.
“The one that I first went to, the Bladensburg Waterfront Park, I actually grew up probably about five miles away from and never knew it was there. So it was nice to discover that we have something so nice and beautiful in the county that we can utilize,” Williams said.
Prince George’s County has some of the top parks in the United States - a distinction the county has earned by winning six national gold medals from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, more than any other county.
“I like discovering the different trails that are in our communities, and the staff that I have met has been so nice and pleasant to be around, so I enjoy meeting them as well,” Williams said.
Residents who are interested in learning more about specific meet-up locations and times can visit the Prince George’s County government website at http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/2474/Step-it-Up-Family-Fitness-Club.
“All anyone has to do is go online and check out the calendar of upcoming events and show up,” Baker said. “We promise they will meet wonderful folks, get great information, and will love exploring our parks and trails. I hope everyone from all ages and every part of the county will join us over the next several months.”
The health department continues to offer other resources for residents to obtain health information as it relates to mental health, addiction and weight loss.