Exercising Outdoors

Many of us make it a New Year’s resolution to eat better, lose some weight, and get back into shape. Finding the time and, of course, the motivation to stick to those goals during the cold winter months is not easy. But with the warmer months finally arriving, the desire to strap on those running shoes, go outdoors, and get fit somehow finds its way back! If exercising outdoors does sound motivating to you, you should discover the fabulous fitness options available in the region, from the Vita Parcours, where wooded running trails are dotted with strengthening exercises, to the Street Workout facilities that can be likened to jungle gyms for adults, and “Bewegungsparks,” which resemble outdoor fitness centers with gentle exercise equipment.

Vita Parcours

Vita Parcours are outdoor fitness trails that are usually located in idyllic forests, with numerous stations along the course where you can do activities that promote strength, endurance, flexibility, or coordination. They started as a gym-teacher’s fitness program back in the late 1960s. He had set up an obstacle course for his students in the forest near the school, with all sorts of natural elements that they had to run up, climb over, jump through, crawl under, and hop around. The idea quickly caught on, and there are now over 500 such trails throughout Switzerland; including one in canton Basel-Stadt and numerous in canton Baselland. As they are sponsored by the Zürich insurance company, they are now referred to as Zürich Vita Parcours. They are, however, maintained locally by the various municipalities, as well as by semi-private organizations, such as touring clubs, athletic clubs, ski clubs, and hiking groups.

Each station is equipped with an information board with pictorial instructions on what to do at that station. Each of the possible 43 different exercises are in one of the three categories: yellow denotes exercises for mobility and dexterity, red is for strength, and blue is for endurance. Depending on your fitness level, you can do a lighter or more difficult version of the exercise at each station, and you can either walk, power walk, jog, or run between the stations. What’s best about these trails is that they are free to the public and open all the time! There are numerous Vita Parcours in and around Basel:

Vita Parcours Tips. Always stretch before any workout. Beginners should take a slow pace from station to station; don’t overdo it and don’t allow yourself to get out of breath. Choose an easy Vita Parcours to begin your training, and don’t forget to stretch afterwards. Fitter athletes should choose a more difficult trail and/or should use the more intensive exercise at each station. Treat yourself to a break, check your pulse, and start a new round if you wish. Always stretch after the completion of any exercise program.

Vita Parcours App and Website. There is an app available from the iTunes Store that helps guide you to the nearest Zürich Vita Parcours and shows you the different Vita Parcours training plans to help you in your personal training. You can also visit the special Zürich Vita Parcours website (https://www.zurichvitaparcours.ch/) for a comprehensive list of all the trails in each canton, maps of their start and end points, statistics on each trail, and examples of the types of stations that you may encounter.

Street Workout Facilities

Street Workout parks are the latest trend in exercising. Because they bear a similarity to monkey bars and jungle gyms in kids’ playgrounds, they are likened to a playground for adults. Street Workout is creative strength training in an urban environment, using one’s own body weight, which is still considered the best and most effective way to muscle conditioning.

There is a grassroots project (https://www.street-workout.com/) aimed at building Street Workout facilities throughout Switzerland, with at least one planned in every district. In the past few years, more and more such facilities have been erected in local parks—with now over a dozen in the Basel-Stadt and Baselland region:

Use of the facilities are free and on a first-come-first-serve basis. The facilities at Dreirosenpark in Basel and at Birsköpfli in Birsfelden are also ideally located by the Rhein and can therefore also serve as a strength-conditioning stop for those endurance-training aficionados who love to run along the idyllic paths by the river.

Bewegungsparks (Exercise Parks)

Initiated in the region in 2010 by the Baselland Sports Office, Bewegungsparks are exercise parks created to provide the public open-air space to exercise (https://www.sportmap-bl.ch/sport-in-der-natur/bewegungsparks). Their equipment in many ways resembles some of what you would find in an indoor sports club or fitness center, but in an outdoor, fresh-air setting that is open all the time, and free! The Bewegungsparks have been deliberately integrated in the vicinity of senior citizens’ apartment complexes, as well as adjacent to children’s playgrounds, allowing adults of all ages to actively use the facilities while their children play on their own playground equipment.

Each park has 6-12 devices that are user-friendly, robust, and aimed at improving dexterity, coordination, balance, circulation, conditioning, and muscle strengthening. Many of the parks also have equipment that is usable for persons with walkers or in a wheelchair. The exercise parks should encourage inactive as well as active people to exercise regularly, promoting a healthy lifestyle while providing users with a great way to meet other people living in the area. There are thus far eight such exercise parks in the Baselland region:

Use of the facilities is free and on a first-come-first-serve basis.