Working out in the great outdoors

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July 1st, 2011

Omaha, NE – When compared to other cities, Omaha ranks rather low when it comes to health and fitness. Now there’s a student-led project that’s making it easier for people to exercise outside — at the park.

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On a recent summer day, about 50 people stopped by Elmwood Park, around the UNO campus, for a morning workout session, using the park’s brand new outdoor fitness equipment. Set up in the middle of this busy park, the new fitness center is highly visible: right next to the swings and slides on the kiddy playground.

David Corbin, using fitness equipment designed to withstand the weather with little maintenance. (Photo by Angel Martin)

University of Nebraska Omaha student Emily Casne demonstrated how one of the eight pieces of fitness equipment works. The fitness area includes a sit-up bench, a double leg press as well as a wheelchair-accessible multi-gym. Michaela Schenkelberg recently graduated from UNO and helped lead the project. She says after two years of planning, and with the help of several other UNO students, the city of Omaha Parks and Recreation department, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, the fitness area moved beyond the blue print.

“When I first came down after all the equipment was here, I couldn’t even believe it,” she said. “I had to walk up to it and sit down and say, this is really here. It was hard to believe. You see it on paper, you see it on blue prints, and then to see it here physically at the park is incredible.”

A spokesperson for Blue Cross, Andy Williams, said the fitness area along with other community activities will help average people live healthier.

Outdoor fitness equipment has been set up in Elmwood Park to encourage park-goers to exercise. (Photo by Angel Martin)

“While they’re here, if they spend ten minutes on this, it’s ten minutes that they didn’t do before,” he said. “It’s not the person who is going to do it anyway for two hours,” he said, “it’s the person who isn’t doing anything, but it will get them started.”

This was a $40,000 privately-funded project. Organizers say they hope it will inspire others to create more outdoor fitness areas in Omaha, and throughout the state of Nebraska.

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