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Opinion: Women can find more outdoor fitness opportunities if cities expand park permits

The pandemic pushed exercise classes outside, and fitness coaches can keep the momentum going with shared-use permits

As the founder and CEO of the Women in Fitness Association, I make it my daily aim to support women globally with opportunities in the fitness industry. Women in fitness deserve every opportunity to succeed by growing into leadership positions or expanding their businesses.

Lindsey Rainwater

According to a recent report analyzing U.S. Census data, women make up 58% of the recreation and fitness workforce, but only earn 86 cents to every dollar earned by men in the same occupations.

At the Women in Fitness Association, we encourage our members to be agile and seize moments of opportunity. One of these emerging opportunities associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is delivering physical activity programs outside.

As indoor gyms and exercise facilities begin to safely reopen, physical activity and exercise programs delivered outdoors is a trend that is expected to continue to thrive. I believe this gives the physical-activity community, and women in fitness, an excellent opportunity to better serve clients, reach new audiences and develop more substantive ties to the larger community.

You probably agree that exercising outside is a great option. But you also may be wondering, is it crucial that local governments continue to expand access to public spaces for physical activity for the long run?

My answer is a resounding yes, based on two main factors. First, it’s no secret that the benefits of physical activity outside are vast. They include improved mood, enhanced self-esteem, and a greater sense of connection to nature and the community. These positive outcomes are more essential than ever after the extended distress and isolation of a global pandemic.

Second, shared-use agreements between fitness/recreational professionals and local municipalities, like the city of Denver, have the potential to expand access to structured physical activity for millions of Americans. This is particularly true for communities that are most vulnerable to lifestyle-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Hispanics had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (31.7 percent), followed by non-Hispanic blacks (30.3 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (23.4 percent). 

That is why I am a strong supporter of the American Council on Exercise’s Moving Together Outside campaign. Launched in spring 2021, Moving Together Outside works to ensure that shared-use agreements or simple permits continue to be issued post-pandemic and are more readily available across our nation. This initiative is strongly aligned with WIFA’s efforts to create awareness and increase opportunities for women and others in fitness to support clients and their communities and get moving outside.

Local governments like the City and County of Denver can and have reaped incredible benefits from shared-use agreements and similar permits for fitness professionals and their communities. For example, Denver has seasonal permits for private outdoor events, ideal for exercise professionals who host classes in parks during a six-month period. The municipality also implemented its shared streets initiative during the pandemic to support residents engaging in physical activity outside while maintaining social distancing practices.


As one of the top ten metropolitan areas with the highest employment rates for personal trainers and group-fitness instructors in the nation, local governments like Denver are a great example of how shared-use agreements and similar permits not only support professionals and residents, but also demonstrate their commitment to public-private partnerships that can improve public health for all. That helps create a more engaged, connected community overall.

Every one of us deserves a high quality of life. Among other essential factors, regular movement, fitness, and physical activity are critical to making that happen. As a public health advocate, opportunity creator, and champion for the fitness and wellness industry, I believe I have an obligation and moral responsibility to help expand access to physical activity and safe outdoor spaces to everyone in our community. Embracing the Moving Together Outside campaign is our very best chance for doing that here in Denver.

Lindsey Rainwater, of Castle Rock, is a business advisor, executive coach, and the founder of The Women in Fitness Association

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