By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer
Being on your phone and working out are two activities that normally aren’t associated.If anything, you might use your cell phone for music to work out to.
However, that could be changing if you regularly exercise in one of Waco’s many city parks.
The QR FIT Trail is a high-tech fitness course designed for individuals of all ages. It is composed of a series of signposts placed along the parks, with each sign post or station featuring Quick Response, also known as QR, codes that link a user’s smartphone to workout instructions and instructional videos. Park visitors can use the camera on their smartphones to scan the QR codes on each sign.
Each workout station offers four workout options that focus on either core, upper body, lower body or flexibility. For users who may be intimidated by the difficulty of the exercises, the fitness system provides users the option to select beginner, intermediate or advanced levels of difficulty. No additional fitness equipment is necessary to perform these exercises.
According to Public Health Education Specialist Sujana Shah, the key partners in this project are the City of Waco, Live Well Waco Coalition, Waco-McLennan County Public Health District , the Parks and Recreation Department and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“At the public health district, one of our priorities is to encourage people to lead healthier lives,” Shah said. “We want to create healthy living opportunities for the community and one way we can do this is by creating different ways for people to be more physically active.”
This fitness course has been installed in 11 parks around Waco — Alta Vista Park, Bell’s Hill Park, Bledsoe-Miller Park, Brazos Park East, Brooklyn Park, Council Acres Park, East Waco Park, Gurley Park, Kendrick Park, Oakwood Park and Oscar DuConge Park.
“People will have something different and fun to keep them active,” Shah said. “They can now utilize the parks for a fun and active fitness program besides just talking a walk. Visitors won’t get bored with the same routine since the videos are updated monthly and there are different intensity levels within each exercise.”
There are signs labeled Station 1 through Station 5 at every park, with each resulting in a different workout video. Some signs even equate the calories being burned to foods, stating that walking one mile would result in burning off 14 potato chips, while walking four and a half miles would burn off one slice of pepperoni pizza.
“People have been very excited about this new addition to the park,” Shah said. “They love the idea of being able to follow someone on their smartphone that can guide them with different exercises. We have seen children doing the exercises with their parents and having a great time. That is exactly what we were hoping for — for families to stay active and have fun.”
Sarah Miller, part time lecturer in the health, human performance & recreation department, said that she experienced many difficulties when trying to use the QR scanner. She had to download three different apps before finding one that worked.
“It was really weird,” Miller said. “Once I finally got it where it would scan, it actually never worked accurately. The exercise didn’t match the location. The video that I was using didn’t match the space.”
Miller said that she feels like the program appeals more to adults than college students or millennials.
“I’m 37 and most of my friends are wanting to do it because they don’t want to pay for a gym membership,” Miller explained.
A Texas Healthy Communities grant at just under $50,000 covered the costs associated with the project, according to Waco Tribune-Herald. The grant requires that they report back how many people throughout the city are using the system.
Bledsoe-Miller Park, which had the highest number of visits, saw 77 hits in June, 104 in July, 55 in August and 26 in September, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported. The 11 parks have had more than 1,000 total visits total in the last three months.