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A New Look and Approach to Playground Designs

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A child plays at Lake Clare Fitness Park in Huntington, Indiana. Photo: Lake Clare Fitness Park on Facebook

By Lawrence P. Bestmann, Ph.D. |

A major challenge facing anyone committed to helping young people become more physically fit is to come up with creative and fun ways to motivate young people to become more active. The current obesity rate for people from age 2 – 19 is about 18.5 %. Most alarming is that as our population rate ages, that number jumps to 66.5 % of the adult population being obese.  

Former United States Sports Academy instructor Dr. Stan Bippus has come up with a creative and economical way to get kids moving and having fun in a safe and challenging. Kids love to run, climb and crawl on just about anything. Typical playgrounds have fun and challenging pieces of equipment, but they are generally connected together into one structure. The problem is as kids climb and crawl around, they tend to stop, rest, and visit before moving on to the next stage. They have fun and some exercise, but the heart rate does not go up much and there are few upper body physical challenges.

When visiting a typical playground, you will see parents and grandparents sitting on benches or standing around watching their children play and have a good time.  You will rarely see parents participating with their children on the playground equipment because most playgrounds are built to accommodate elementary age children.

Dr. Bippus has designed and coordinated the construction of a playground, which he refers to as a Fun Fitness Park, that accommodates and serves the needs of people of all ages and fitness levels. Dr. Bippus made sure the Fun Fitness park is as safe as any playground. All the obstacles, except for a 20-foot rope climb, are built close to the ground.

A major difference between the Fun Fitness Park and typical playground is families participate and play together.  Visitors are not setting around at the park; they are moving around.  Rarely will you see parents playing with their kids on playground equipment, but at the Fun Fitness Park you can observe parents and grandparents moving around the park and attempting different obstacles.  It is notunusual to see parents “running” the kid’s obstacle course with their children or to see a child hold his grandmother’s hand as he walks down a balance beam.  Another common sight is seeing parents holding their small children up so they can attempt to complete different “Ninja Warrior Obstacles”.

A key component to the Fun Fitness Park is even the most physically fit adults will have a difficult time completing all of the courses because some are extremely physically challenging. There are obstacles that over-weight and out-of-shape individuals can complete while having fun. 

What is even more impressive is the Fun Fitness Park was completely financed with donations from local businesses, organizations, and individuals.  No tax dollars were spent building the Fun Fitness Park.  Not only that, the park was built by a group of retired veterans with occasional help from jail trustees and willing volunteers to help when some heavy lifting was needed.

When the Park was completed, it was turned over to the Huntington Township Trustees for insurance and future maintenance.   The volunteers continue to maintain all of the obstacles and continue to raise money to add additional obstacles.

Anyone using Facebook can read progress reports about the Fun Fitness Park by clicking in: Lake Clare Fitness Park

Fitness, is like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but hardly anyone does anything about it. Dr. Stan Bippus is a rare exception, with the Fitness Fun Park, he will make an indelible, positive impact on the health and fitness of our youth, and adults as well.

Dr. Lawrence P. Bestmann is a Professor Emeritus and National Faculty member at the United States Sports Academy. He is the institution’s former Chair of Sport Studies and Mentorships.

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