Health & Fitness

You're sitting on a bench at the park? That isn't the recommended use

Bayfront Park has been hosting free yoga classes for years, with Biscayne Bay as a backdrop.
Bayfront Park has been hosting free yoga classes for years, with Biscayne Bay as a backdrop.

By now, many have seen the popular meme that often makes the rounds of Facebook. The one that reads, in part:

“We drank from the garden hose and not the bottle.”

“We would leave home in the morning and play all day. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were OK.”

“We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-Aid made with sugar, but we weren’t overweight because we were always outside playing.”

Miami-Dade Parks’ directors Allan Tavss, who is the active older adults program coordinator, and Eric Hansen, program manager for the Fit2Play after-school program, certainly can relate to these reminders of an era 40 years in the rear-view mirror.

“We had three channels on TV and didn’t have smartphones,” Hansen said. “We grew up in a different time when the outdoors and hanging out with friends and playing in the street with friends was what we did for entertainment. There’s a whole lot more competition these days.”

But both want you to know that in the new year, there is no reason not to take advantage of the fitness programs at South Florida’s parks. There are some 280 parks in the Miami-Dade system, with as many in Broward. And nearly half of these parks, about 120, have built-in activities for swimming, biking, walking, jogging and more.

There are outdoor Fitness Zones with pull-up bars, walk and run paths. For the adventurous, there are Eco-Adventures programs that offer miles of biking, hiking and fitness trails, kayaking, pools, and indoor recreation centers for Zumba and Tai Chi classes. And for those seeking serenity, there are outdoor yoga classes with Biscayne Bay as a backdrop.

So, no more excuses. Here are some of the many activities you can do at South Florida parks:

Fit2PLay

Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department teamed with the University of Miami and The Children’s Trust eight years ago to run the popular fitness, health and obesity prevention Fit2Play after-school program. It’s for children ages 6-14 at 31 parks.

Children take part in skills common to the presidential fitness test held in schools, such as 400-meter runs, timed sit-ups and push-ups and team activities. Students’ weight, height and body fat are measured and analyzed. Kids receive instruction from nutritionists while learning about nature and science.

“We wanted our after-school program to have an impact on kids,” Hansen said.

Fit2Play is held from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday through June 9. Fees range from $25 to $35 per week, depending on the program and location and qualifying families can receive financial aid. Miami-Dade Parks offers transportation from select schools to select park sites.

The sites are: Country Village Park, Gwen Cherry Park, Highland Oaks Park, Jefferson Reaves Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, Marva Y. Bannerman Park, North Glade Park, Oak Grove Park, Ojus Park, Olinda Park, Sydney Wynn Park at Arcola and West Little River Park, in the north.

Also, Bird Lakes Park, Continental Park, Kendale Lakes Park, North Trail Park, Rockway Park, Ruben Dario Park, Tropical Estates Park and Westwind Lakes Park, in central Miami-Dade.

Also, Camp Matecumbe, Eureka Park, Eureka Villas Park, Goulds Park, Hammocks Community Park, Live Like Bella Park, Naranja Park, Sgt. Joseph Delancy Park, South Dade Park and West Perrine Park, in the south.

Information, call 305-755-7800 or visit: www.miamidade.gov/parks/activities-after-school.asp.

Active Older Adults

Don’t call ’em seniors.

The goal?

For adults 55 and older, the parks offer Cardio Fit Plus cardiovascular exercise classes, which get the blood pumping through Tai Chi, Zumba, yoga and the Walk4Life Walking Program. Also, there are aerobics and stretching classes and indoor activities like ceramics and board games.

In the north end, programs are offered at Arcola Lakes Park Senior Center, Country Village Park, Gwen Cherry Park and Martin Luther King Memorial Park. Also, Continental, North Trail and Westwind Lakes parks in central Dade, and Deerwood Bonita Lakes, Goulds and South Dade parks in the south.

Call 786-372-9701.

Fitness Zones

Think of Fitness Zone areas as adult-sized playgrounds. Equipment at parks designed for cardio and strength training and wheelchair workouts can include cross country ski-simulating chest and shoulder presses, leg presses and extensions, ab toners and rowers. The equipment uses body weight for resistance.

The latest additions are a lakeside Fitness Zone at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah. On Feb. 4, a rededicated Chester Byrd Park in Dania Beach opens with fitness demos and healthy eating exhibitors.

Fitness Zones are also located at Lake Stevens, Country Club of Miami, Ives Estates, Gratigny Plateau, Martin Luther King Memorial, and Legion parks, in the north.

Also, Concord, Tropical Park, A.D. “Doug” Barnes, International Gardens, Blue Lakes, Kendall Indian Hammocks, Cherry Grove, and Margaret Pace in central Miami-Dade and West Perrine and Goulds parks in the south.

Yoga in the park

Doing yoga along Biscayne Bay is a splendid way to end the Monday and Wednesday workday or jump-start Saturday morning.

Yoga in the Park classes, run in association with Baptist Health South Florida instructors, are held at 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 9 a.m. Saturday at Bayfront Park. Classes are free but you must be 18 and bring your own mat, water and towel. Information: 305-358-7550 or visit www.bayfrontparkmiami.com/YogaClasses.html.

Biking, boarding ‘n’ ball playing

Oleta River State Park in North Miami has over 10 miles of challenging mountain bike trails. For beginners, there are four miles of novice trails and three miles of paved trail. Oleta also has canoe and kayak rentals.

David Kennedy Park in Coconut Grove has a spongy track that’s easy on the joints for running, a bicycle path and outdoor fitness zone.

Tropical Park in West Miami has baseball fields, a running track and plentiful paths.

Coral Reef Park in Palmetto Bay has a scenic walking, jogging and bicycle path, as well as beach volleyball, tennis courts and softball and baseball fields.

Sunny Isles Beach has a reputation as a concrete canyon, but there are numerous parks amid the high rises. The latest addition is a skate park at Haulover Park.

The 666-acre Markham Park in Sunrise offers 10 miles of mountain bike trails marked Novice and Intermediate. Wear a helmet and pads. Or stick to a paved path that winds along the picnic areas, tennis courts, boating ramps and lakes.

Brian Piccolo Sports Park in Cooper City boasts a velodrome (a bowl-shaped bicycle track) where you can set a fast pace or stick to the inner track for a leisurely ride. Hours vary.

C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, has bike paths spread about its 320 acres. Cool off at the Paradise Cove water park from April through October and get in your cardio by climbing the ladders to access the tallest water slides. Or check out the tennis, racquetball and basketball courts.

Swimming

Shenandoah Park Miami has a pool, and recreation and fitness centers.

The Miami Tarpons swim team trains at Miami’s Gibson Park Join or take lessons, enjoy water aerobics or swim laps.

Flamingo Park in Miami Beach renovated its aquatics center in 2002, adding a water playground splash area and refurbishing a heated, eight-lane, 25-yard pool for lap swimming. The park also has a track that can handle bikes and in-line skaters, football and baseball fields, 17 tennis courts and a revamped tot lot/playground that includes the original choo-choo train.

Eat healthy

A new weekly farmer’s market runs 2-7 p.m. Fridays at Bill Bird Marina at Haulover Beach Park in North Miami Beach. The market offers locally grown produce and a DJ — dancing burns calories — and a bounce house for the kids.

Finally, the Coral Gables Farmers Market is back at 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, through March 25, on the corner of Miracle Mile and Le Jeune Road. The market has free Tai Chi classes, along with the healthy eats.

Get fit at Miami-Dade, Broward parks

For information on Miami-Dade parks, call 305-755-7800 or visit http://www.miamidade.gov/parks/

For information on Broward Parks, call 954-357-8100 or visit: http://www.broward.org/Parks/Pages/Default.aspx

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