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Collaborating for community health

December 26, 2012

Senior Center workout devotee and local musician Ellen Siegal takes a brisk stroll on an air walker, supervised by Toiyabe Indian Health Project Director of Preventive Medicine Rick Frey. Though it will not be ready for public use until early 2013, Siegal is the first person to break in the equipment at the city park’s new outdoor gym. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

Excuses for not keeping one of the most common new year’s resolutions are rapidly dwindling with the advent of Bishop’s new, free-of-charge community gym in 2013.
In fact, said Toiyabe Indian Health Project’s Director of Preventive Medicine Rick Frey, the new 20-piece workout station, outdoor exercise equipment in the Bishop City Park on Park Avenue, south of Bishop Senior Center, is a gift to the entire community from the Bishop Paiute Tribe.
The new outdoor exercise equipment is currently being installed on an 1,800 square-foot patch of decomposed granite which will be covered in poly-pave to create a firm, natural floor. The outdoor gym, under its “impressive” shade structure, cost about $60,000, said Frey and should be available for public use “just after the first of the new year.
“This pilot project is part of the Community Transformation Grant we received last year from the Center for Disease Control.” Inyo County’s CDC received funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund which is an aspect of Obamacare’s Affordable Care Act, explained Frey. “Toiyabe’s goal is to reduce chronic disease in Inyo and Mono counties … by 5 percent over the next five years. “One of our strategic directions is to increase active living opportunities. Although Native Americans are our target population, we want to improve policies, systems, and environmental changes that not only help Indians but the general population.” And since Indians are part of the general population, explained Frey, the tribe voted to install the equipment in the city park.
The outdoor gym includes an air walker with very little resistance for cardiovascular workout. Lateral pull down/shoulder presses work the back, arm and shoulder muscles, explained Frey, demonstrating. “There are no weights, I use my own body weight as the resistance,” as does all of the equipment.
The elliptical machine “is what people pay a lot of money to join a gym for,” said Frey and “the price is right.” There are leg presses for assisted squats; chest presses; static ab boards; and a leg and hand stationary bicycle “with no resistance. It’s pretty easy,” said Frey, hand pedaling like mad, “but I can feel it.” Bi-level chin-up bars also feature dip bars for tricep-working “bent-arm hangs.”
At the five-station core fit unit in the center of the al fresco gym, abs and low back muscles can get a workout with small air walkers; an ab cruncher, which, according to Frey, mid-demonstration, “is not for the faint of heart;” and side-swingers. “It’s like skiing,” said Frey, supplying slope-swooshing sounds.
According to Frey, the city’s future plans for this location include more soccer fields, a walking path and a bike path that links the out door gym, the city park, the Sterling Heights community area, the shopping center and the community gardens.
Decals are on order which will delineate the safe and proper use of each piece of equipment and which muscle groups are involved. The decals will also include QR, or quick read, codes so that users “with a Smart Phone can actually view an instructional video for each piece of equipment,” Frey explained.
There are also plans for a bench and central signage with safety information and “a big welcome, something like ‘free of charge, be safe, have fun, get healthy,’” grinned Frey.
And “if this outdoor gym is successful, we will consider doing something similar in other Inyo and Mono County communities,” said Frey. “The key thing, is that this community-wide health opportunity is the result of a positive partnership between the City of Bishop and Toiyabe Indian Health Project. This is certainly the kind of venture that builds bridges between communities, fosters future opportunities and has real potential to improve general population health.”

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