Hackney is commonly referred to as one of the ‘greenest boroughs’ in London. With acres of green space, most people have the luxury of being within a mile radius of a park. Hackney council have indicated that there are a plethora of 58 parks, gardens, and open spaces, equaling some 282 hectares.

In fact, 21 parks in Hackney alone have been awarded a prestigious ‘green flag award’; which sets the national standard for well maintained parks that are clean, accessible, and inviting for all. This alone should provide a therapeutic place of refuge from the hustle and bustle of work, and an inviting arena for participating in exercise, games, or sport.

Some initial research undertaken by Does Hackney makes you fat? entailed spending an hour in two of Hackney’s busiest parks to observe and count the number of overweight and fit park users - London Fields and Clissold Park.

The demographic of park users presented a surprising outcome. In Clissold Park we counted 627 park users. From this total, only 37 were overweight or obese. Our time spent in London Fields yielded similar findings. From 498 people using the park, only 17 were overweight or obese. The entire representation of overweight or obese park users represent 6% of the total population.

The type of question this initial research manifests is: do the open green spaces around us actually present a barrier to being physically active?  Forming the basis of our summer campaign Join us in the park, Does Hackney makes you fat? is looking to explore if factors, such as social stigma and discrimination dissuade overweight people from using parks.

The addition of outdoor gyms, installed by councils to increase exercise participation, are a useful tool for those who dislike gyms or exercise classes. However, the setup and layout of equipment, from one park to the next may actually present a barrier in this respect. From our research undertaken in London Fields, the outdoor gym was predominantly used by people who appeared to understand how to exercise safely, and who were already at an advanced level of physical fitness.

The council have already made a wonderful intervention through the addition of free exercise classes: Our Parks, and New Age Games, aimed for those aged 50 and above. This presents a excellent choice and alternative for those managing on a tight budget. However, Does Hackney make you fat? is looking to explore if barriers such as accessibility, classes which are both gender or culturally specific, or if the demographic or those using classes entices or demotivates people from participating.