Merton Pioneers Outdoor Exercise Code

Standards for outside exercise sessions

Merton will be the first council in the country to pilot a Code of Practice for outdoor exercise providers to ensure minimum health and safety standards are met across the Borough.

The FIA (Fitness Industry Association) Outdoor Code of Practice will be enforceable across the borough's parks and open spaces from July 1.

The Code will help to protect the safety of residents using the parks and ensure minimum legal requirements and appropriate insurance and liability provision is in place for outdoor exercise.

There has been a consistent rise in the number of outdoor exercise sessions, ranging from walking groups to boot camp fitness, operating within the Council's parks and green spaces over the recent years.

This has led the FIA and Merton, along with a number of other Councils nationally, to develop a quality and safety assurance tool to demonstrate the services offered by outdoor exercise operators are carried out in a responsible, legal and safe manner.

All outdoor fitness providers will have to be Code of Practice compliant to operate within the Council's estate. However, Merton Council has secured a significant reduction in cost for being the first local authority to roll the Code out. The Code includes both desk-based and mystery shop elements within the Code of Practice assessment.

Merton's cabinet member for environmental regeneration and sustainability, Councillor Andrew Judge supported the introduction of the Outdoor Code of Practice. He said: "It is vitally important that we as the responsible body for the outdoor spaces in Merton have an element of control over who operates in our parks and to provide our residents with the peace of mind that the services they are receiving conform to best practice, meet minimum legal requirements and are covered by the appropriate insurance. We are delighted to be leading the way nationally".

David Stalker, CEO, FIA, said that the Outdoor Code of Practice would be beneficial to operators, Local Authorities and customers, and praised Merton for their proactive attitude towards the Code.

He said: "Gyms and leisure centres have long been governed by a Code of Practice which is recognisable by consumers and acts as a stamp of approval that minimum standards have been met. Outdoor exercise has experienced significant growth and the introduction of this Code will bring this part of the market in line with the rest of the sector and help to ensure that standards are kept at a high level for the benefit and safety of the customer.

"From a Local Authority perspective it gives reassurance that the activities happening in the parks and open spaces across the country are being carried out by the right individuals taking the right precautions and behaving in a professional and responsible manner.

“I am delighted that Merton has taken the lead in introducing the Outdoor Code of Practice and believe it will ultimately be to the benefit of those residents who quite rightly see outdoor exercise as a way to stay healthy and have fun in a safe environment”.

Operators who are Code of Practice Approved will be listed on the FIA website, which will be accessible for consumers to check which operators meet the minimum requirements in their local area.

June 26, 2012