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Allegheny County installs fitness stations in 8 of its 9 parks

| Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, 11:14 p.m.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
Kestrel Ramsay (left), 6, and her sister Aderyn, 10, of Penn Hills try out the new exercise equipment in the Minnow pavillion area at Deer Lakes Park in West Deer on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.
Eric Felack | Tribune-Review
Gwendolyn Ramsay, 12, of Penn Hills, uses an elliptical exercise machine in the Minnow pavillion area in Deer Lakes Park in West Deer on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016.

Who knew elliptical exercise equipment could look so good?The sleek lime-and-blue machines actually are appealing in their outdoor locations at eight Allegheny County parks instead of the less-scenic gym or basement.

This summer, the county has installed most of the 10 new open air exercise stations in eight of the nine county parks: Boyce, Deer Lakes, Harrison Hills, North, Round Hill, Settlers Cabin, South and White Oak.

The county soon will pour concrete for a second equipment pad at Deer Lakes and is waiting for another newly poured pad to cure at Boyce Park before installing equipment on it.

The equipment from Xccent Fitness of Wyoming, Minn., costs $530,000, with the Allegheny Regional Asset District kicking in $355,000 and county bond funds covering the $175,000 balance, according to Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County spokesman.

“I think this is the best thing the parks have done in a long time,” said Fred Campbell, 46, of Freeport who has tried his hand at the elliptical, and other equipment known as the knee raise/dip combo, arm-and-leg press combo, and pull-up/dip combo at Harrison Hills park in Harrison Township on Monday.

Apparently children like the serious exercise equipment, too, maybe more than their parents.

Campbell's two children easily segued from the jungle gym to the exercise equipment, stepping furiously on the elliptical like only a child would.

Short of breath, Campbell's son, Logan, 9, said, “This is easy for me to do.”

Nadia, 7, Campbell's daughter, took her turn on the elliptical. “This is fun,” she said.

“It's a good way for parents to work out while watching their kids having fun,” Campbell said.

Many of the fitness stations are strategically located near existing playgrounds to make it easier for adults to work out.

Pairing exercise with chaperoning at the playground is important because the greatest excuse adults use for not exercising is that they don't have enough time, said Renee J. Rogers, an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh Physical Activity and Weight Management Center.

“One of the nice things about this is it gives people an option,” Rogers said. “Some people enjoy the gym setting. But other people prefer to be outdoors. They like the scenery. This gives them the best of both worlds.”

It was actually park users who raised the idea of installing exercise equipment, Evanto said. “The parks department thought it was great concept that coincided with its mission,” he said.

The project also dovetails with the Allegheny County Health Department's Live Well Allegheny initiative.

“Parks are a great place to be physically active,” said Hannah Hardy, program manager for the health department's chronic disease program.

“The equipment is fun and eye-catching,” she said. “This is a new way for people and families to interact.”

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or mthomas@tribweb.com.

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