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    Fitness app created by hospital and area park getting Shelby County residents moving

    Lesley Young - The Commercial Appeal - 

    Baptist Memorial Health Care and the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy share a common goal for the residents of Shelby County — to promote the health and well-being of its citizens.

    "The park is all about health and nutrition, and we're right next door to Baptist, who shares the same goal, so we have a really natural partnership," said Jen Andrews, director of development and communications for the park.

    As a way to facilitate that goal, the two recently collaborated to create the ShelbyFit app.

    The free downloadable mobile app, customized for Shelby County residents, was launched by the partners in early July. Go to baptistonline.org/shelbyfit for more information, download from there, or go to the Apple App Store at bpt.st/ShelbyFit.

    "We are celebrating our centennial this year and are working with several community partners, like Shelby Farms, who is our neighbor and gives us a lot of information," said Ashley Compton, public relations coordinator for Baptist. "We were trying to think of products that would benefit people in our community and promote wellness."

    "We are a nonprofit, and we raise 75 percent of our operating costs privately every year," the park's Andrews said. "We count on strong community partners like Baptist, who have shown their support from early on."

    As of last week, 1,600 Shelby County residents have downloaded the app.

    And so far, 1,215 hours of exercise have been logged by these users.

    "When you download it, it takes you to a page where you can enter your height and weight and set a goal for yourself. Say you want to exercise 120 minutes for the week; if you work out you can easily log it and keep track," Andrews said. "It gives people a way to set goals and track their activity toward that goal. They can share that activity if they want to. It's a free, fun tool people can use to hold themselves accountable."

    There are several ways to use the app, including browsing the "Activities" tab to find locations that offer a particular type of exercise, anything from horseback riding and boating to basketball and swimming.

    "If your favorite activity is canoeing, if that keeps you active and moving, you can click on "Canoeing" and see what parks you can go to to make that happen," said Wendy Holmes, a local personal trainer and Shelby Fit proponent. "I tell everyone about it. Anything I can do to encourage people to get moving."

    For the many Shelby County race enthusiasts, the "Events" tab lists not only races in the area, but also health fairs, blood pressure screenings and any other health-related event. Events are posted up to a month in advance and updated regularly.

    "People are always contacting us about an upcoming event. We are able to support a lot of health and wellness fairs. We post free blood pressure screenings, free (body mass index) testing, any upcoming 5Ks or other events, up to a month in advance, so anything going on in October, we can't post it until September," Compton said.

    Users can find a comprehensive list of surrounding parks under the "Places" tab, and under "Resources" users can find tips, articles, podcasts and other information.

    "I'm not sure if people realize our parks we have available," Holmes said. "They've gone through so many changes, and they are very user-friendly with so many activities that can go on in a park. It shows what options there are for the entire family. Parks are family friendly, and there kids can run, scream and jump like they're supposed to."

    Members of Baptist and Shelby Farms hope the tool will help address the obesity problem Shelby County knows about all too well.

    "The Memphis area is constantly hearing about the amount of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity we have in the area. We hope this app can bring some awareness to what is available to them without having to join a gym or go full force. So many are intimidated by that," Compton said.

    "What we're seeing now in the last 20 years is a higher increase in morbid obesity, which means your body is made up of 40 percent fat or higher, and that young children are falling into that category at a younger age," Holmes said. "The park is for the entire family."

    Holmes has been promoting the app since Day 1.

    "Each week I share it as a fitness tip on my board. As a trainer, I am always looking for tools to get a person moving. And this is free," Holmes said.

    Baptist dietitian Christy Fernandez can't emphasize enough to her patients the app's usefulness.

    "As a dietitian, I encourage a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and to eat three meals a day, but you also have to find time in your busy schedule to incorporate physical activity," she said. "Now there's an app that gives you ideas of what you can do in your area of town and ideas of how to incorporate exercise into your schedule."

    "It's a really fun way to figure out what you can do to meet your weekly fitness goals. I think it's pretty cool," Andrews said.