New Canton Fitness Court Keeps Families Active and Safe

A modern take on the outdoor gym gives people looking for a good workout a safer option to get their sweat on. Learn more about Canton's new Fitness court.

Folks that have given up indoor gyms for the time being have a new option on their hands — a state-of-the-art outdoor fitness court located in Canton.

The fitness structure was put in by the home building company M/I Homes of the nearby Park Creek subdivision but anyone 14 and older is free to use it. The design comes from the California-based National Fitness Campaign, which has hundreds of identical courts across the country.

About the court

“The National Fitness Campaign started in 1979 at Stanford with the simple idea to bring the gym outdoors,” says Trent Matthias, director of the National Fitness Campaign. “There were thousands of the original fitness courts, but in 2012 the whole thing was reimagined.”

Now, the structures have an accompanying app designed to guide the user through the different stations which include hanging bars and suspended rings designed to work the body through seven movements: core, squat, push, lunge, pull, agility and bend.

“It’s a seven minute, seven-zone functional training system,” Matthias says. “Each zone maps to a movement pattern in the body and in each zone, there are hundreds of different exercises people can do.”

“It’s pretty unique because it’s variable, meaning each zone is also progressive so that you can improve over time — really, we’re just trying to help Americans move better,” he adds.

The app is called Fitness Court and has dozens of videos to guide users through workouts at different stations and challenges that allow users to rack up points to compete on a leaderboard. There is also a feature to find the closest outdoor court to a person’s location and the ability to challenge friends.

“We think there are tons of benefits to being outside and being in nature,” he says. “You also have the connection to pedestrian infrastructure, so you can stretch your workout throughout the community.”

A family experience

While the structure itself is recommended for ages 14 and older, many of the core movements are kid-friendly, says Matthias. For families with children younger than 14, he recommends trying out some of the exercises, like squats, push-ups, pull-ups and lunges, at home.

For those with older children, the fitness courts present a way for families to stay safe and active together during the pandemic.

“You can still get 14 folks out there with appropriate social distancing, so the fitness court can be really safe during this time” Matthias says. “Around the country there are more than 150 fitness courts currently open and more coming soon.”

In fact, the National Fitness Campaign recently struck a deal with the state to build more of the outdoor fitness courts at places like high schools, universities, community colleges and “anywhere with a public space,” says Matthias.

“We just launched a state partnership in Michigan with the help of the insurance company, Priority Health,” he says. “They joined the campaign to fund 15 new partners in 2021.”

The $150,000 price tag of the courts is often offset by grant funding, says Matthias.

“Our mission is really to change health outcomes through a built environment,” he says. “We’re very interested in building partnerships in order to be valued as an investment in communities.”

Matthias says the Canton fitness court was a special partnership between M/I Homes and the city.

“They’re taking a very innovative look at how to invest in their communities,” he says. “This is a pretty innovative partnership.”

To anyone on the fence about trying out the new court, he says: “It’s really just a world class free outdoor gym and we hope everyone has a lot of fun out there.”


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