A sports meeting point for all ages

Authors: Dr. Catharina Maulbecker-Armstrong, Prof. Dr. Grit Hottenträger, Birgit Rebel, Annina Kreißl, Stella Emmerich

A sports meeting point for all ages

Even after two years, the movement trails in Darmstadt und Hanau are still lively facilities, with people balancing on the bar, doing press-ups and enjoying exercises for the upper body and legs. Now we would like to provide an update on how the trails have developed. In this way, we hope to show how sustained use of such movement trails can be achieved.

As an examination of the site revealed last summer, the movement trails that were inaugurated in 2011 are still being used by many citizens. Most of the visitors also use the trails actively. Three inspections were conducted on different days, both in Darmstadt and Hanau, and nearly 200 active adults were counted on each occasion. Almost half the adults spent 15 to 30 minutes on the equipment, with many remaining even longer.

The largest active group of users are adults between the ages of 18 and 50. They often come to train in sports clothing, but also to explore the possibilities of the equipment in their everyday clothes. In Darmstadt, a striking finding is that it is mostly men who use the equipment in this age group. In Hanau, by contrast, slightly more women than men use the trail.

The trails are also well visited by older adults and senior citizens. In this age group, it is mostly women who are to be found on the trails at the two locations. Some come alone, some with their partners and others use the facility for a walk with their family.

Children and young people also visit the trails, which has something to do with the fact that schools are located in the vicinity, and in the case of Hanau there is also a nearby playground. Particularly in breaks, but also before and after school, the trails are intensively frequented by this group of users.

A telephone survey of former pilot participants (over 60-year-olds who did not previously do sport) confirms the findings of the on-site research as regards the use by the older generation. Over 60% of those surveyed have been utilising the facility since the pilot, i.e. generally at least once or twice a week regularly since summer 2011.

There are many reasons and motivations for them having since then used the trails, but some noticeable motivators emerged during the course of the survey. Very important factors include enjoyment of the exercises, the fresh air and the possibility to do exercises designed specifically to strengthen the legs and achieve better balance. The opportunity to keep fit and participate in social life is also significant, as is the fact that the trail is free of charge and can be visited spontaneously with friends and acquaintances. These factors make the movement trail a sports-related leisure facility that people are happy to benefit from.

The supervised exercise courses held by sport organisations on the trails remain very popular, especially in Darmstadt. One lady from Darmstadt expressed the following opinion: “The expertise and empathy of the person in charge of the exercises should be emphasised”. These exercises are popular due to the fixed training times and the targeted exercises for legs and balance (on the equipment or during warm-up), but also because they provide an opportunity “to meet and chat”.

This year too, supervised exercise courses will be held again both in Darmstadt and Hanau, and the groups are looking forward to welcoming new members.

Those who participated in the survey gave the most frequent reason for not making use of the trails as infirmity and illness. However, they said they would use the trails again as soon as they could and were given the all clear to do so.
The local contact persons for Darmstadt are Mr. Klatt (public office for sport of the Darmstadt – city of science) and for Hanau Mr. Ritter (head of the sport department, municipal council of Hanau).

Background

As part of its sustainability strategy, the state government of Hesse, together with three universities, initiated model movement trails for older citizens at two pilot locations, Darmstadt and Hanau. These trails were scientifically supported and monitored by the three universities. The pilot trails were constructed in summer 2011 with the aim of motivating senior citizens to enjoy movement in the fresh air that would also make them healthier. For the first time in Germany, for three months and within the framework of an academic study, research was carried out into the positive effect of movement trails on the health of those senior citizens over 60 years of age who did not previously engage in sport. The findings of both the physical and psychological evaluation of the senior citizens taking part can be viewed as positive.
The pilot project in Hesse has now attracted interest from across Germany and at the European level. On the EU website of the European Year for Active Ageing too, the project was listed as a “good practice” model. For more information, click on the following link http://europa.eu/ey2012/ey2012main.jsp?catId=975&langId=de&mode=initDetail&initiativeId=725&initLangId=en . The concept of the movement trail originates from Asia and has now also been implemented at some locations in Germany, and specifically in Hessen. Thanks to the initiative, there are meanwhile more than 100 locations in Hessen with movement equipment. In a guide with the title “Movement for health in old age”, the state government of Hessen offers information on how to establish and use such trails, and lists the locations of movement trails for older people. This can be retrieved on the Internet using the link http://www.sozialnetz.de/ca/b/ckw. An English language version of the guide has also been made available for the European market.


Photography: Playparc, playfit
 

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