Birmingham parks' exercise scheme to be expanded across the city

A scheme to offer free physical activities in Birmingham parks will be rolled out across the city after a successful pilot.

Since April the Active Parks scheme has been trialled in Cotteridge Park, Walkers Heath Park, Moonlit and Sunset Parks, Holders Lane Fields and Ward End Park.

Users were offered a range of free activities from the everyday – walking, running and cycling – to the more unusual such as Tai Chi, bushcraft and buggyfit. Gardening was also on the list.

Now 50 parks will be involved from April 2014 and organisers are surveying park users to see what they think.

The council said feedback from the pilot found that the parks attracted people who did not traditionally use leisure facilities and allowed families to exercise together. People who came to exercise also often stayed on to volunteer in the parks.

Cabinet member for health and wellbeing, councillor Steve Bedser said: "The obesity problem in Birmingham cannot be underestimated – 26 per cent of our population is obese and that includes nearly one in four of our ten and 11-year-olds.

"We have to use every resource available to us to promote healthier and more active lifestyles throughout the city. That includes our wonderful parks and open spaces."

Bedser said the pilot showed there was undoubtedly a demand for physical activities in parks and open spaces.

The scheme has been delivered by Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Sport and Physical Activity Partnership and links into the existing Be Active project which offers people free access to leisure centres.

Bedser said that many people who did not like gyms found parks "familiar, unthreatening venues."

The city has 600 parks and open spaces.

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