Aztec City Manager Joshua Ray attempts a pull-up during a ribbon cutting ceremony in Riverside Park on Thursday. San Juan Regional Medical Center donated
Aztec City Manager Joshua Ray attempts a pull-up during a ribbon cutting ceremony in Riverside Park on Thursday. San Juan Regional Medical Center donated four exercise stations to the city, stationed along the river. (James Fenton/The Daily Times)
AZTEC — Now there are more ways to stay healthy while taking in the tranquil setting at Aztec's Riverside Park.

Officials from the city of Aztec and the San Juan Regional Medical Center gathered on Thursday for a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating four new exercise stations at the park.

The hospital donated the fitness equipment as part of its campaign to give back to the community and promote healthy lifestyles.

"We definitely value the hospital making a difference in the community," said City Manager Joshua Ray. "It's a blessing to get this equipment to help make citizens of Aztec healthier and happier in this amazing setting beside the river."

The equipment donation is one of several the hospital has planned. Last fall, similar fitness equipment was installed in Farmington's Kiwanis Park, and fitness stations are scheduled to be donated to the city of Bloomfield in the coming weeks.

"Getting things for free is always fantastic, making it a complete project," said Ray, before demonstrating proper equipment use with a series of pull-ups.

Roughly a quarter mile apart from each other along the park's river trail, the four stations offer opportunities for body-tuck, body-pull, sit-up and push-off exercises.

Each station includes a large green sign that lists a series of steps for the exercise with visual pictographs that suggest proper body positioning.

"Since 1910 (when the hospital first opened), it's been our mission to ensure the health and well-being of our community," said Roberta Rogers, the hospital's marketing director. "Giving people more opportunities to become or stay active is the best preventative medicine."

Standing beside Ray during the ceremony was Sandra Grunwaldt, San Juan Regional Medical Center's full engagement training and diabetes education manager. And beside her stood the hospital's heart healthy mascot, Mr. Juan Hart.

The mascot an oversized red heart in running shoes is part of the hospital's push to simplify health into four steps: exercise five days a week for 30 minutes, eat five fruits or vegetables per day, maintain a healthy body weight and avoid smoking.

"There's an epidemic of diabetes and obesity in the country and this county," said Dr. Sugar Singleton Marcy, a physician at San Juan Health Partners Aztec, a clinic near Riverside Park. "Exercise equipment in a park is so fabulous because it promotes healthy lifestyles for the whole family."

The best way to prevent many chronic lifestyle diseases diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol is to get people to take part in activities together, she said.

"We need accountability partners in our friends, families and our doctors to break bad habits and reach healthier ones," she said. "Most of my patients are receptive to the idea, but only half of them truly become more active. It's not an easy fix like a little white pill."

Marcy exercises almost daily with her family, usually talking walks and going on bike rides, and she eschews fast food and soda.

"I'm an eternal optimist and believe people want to lead healthy lives," she said. "Getting outside together at the park, along the trail, is the best and most fun path to a happier and healthier lifestyle."

James Fenton can be reached at jfenton@daily-times.com; 505-564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.