LOS ANGELES -- For some California club owners, new competition—or perhaps a new “feeder club”—just popped up in their local parks, thanks to a partnership between Kaiser Permanente and Trust for Public Lands (TPL). During the next three years, the two groups will put Fitness Zones in five parks in Los Angeles County as a way to encourage people to get out and exercise. Kaiser Permanente is giving TPL $750,000 in funding for the project, which was developed by TPL.

The project is just part of Kaiser Permanente’s $18.5 million investment during the next five years to develop community-based efforts that promote healthy eating and active living in California through its Healthy Eating, Active Living program.

The Fitness Zones include five to six pieces of equipment for strength training, cardiovascular and balance/flexibility, says Socorro Serrano, spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente. The equipment is similar to that in health clubs but is free for people of all ages and fitness levels to use. It’s also vandal and weather resistant, she says.

“It’s set up like at a Curves,” Serrano says. “You start on one for a warm-up, then cardio for 15 minutes, then weight, then balance, then flexibility and then a cool down.”

Today, volunteers ranging from college students to senior-aged women demonstrated how to use the equipment in a media event organized by the two groups at Belvedere Park in Los Angeles.

The groups envision the equipment as a way to get people interested in fitness and as an opportunity to try out gym-type equipment without joining a gym.

“I see it as a transitional step,” Serrano says, noting that the next step would be to join a health club.