London\u2019s parks are regularly used as a free alternative to pricey gyms, but one man saw an opportunity to push getting fit for free even further. Born Barikor, CEO and founder of Our Parks,\u00a0had an ambition to take outdoor exercise beyond static gym equipment, running tracks and friendly kick-abouts. Our Parks works with local authorities to provide free exercise in parks across the capital, and parts of central Bedfordshire too. Groups of self-dubbed \u2018Parkers\u2019 gather across city boroughs to do anything from aerobics and circuit training to capoeira and parkour. We spoke to Born about what motivated him to get people fit, and how social media is helping get people off their screens and on their feet. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what made you want to start Our Parks? I used to be a personal trainer; I used to work for a leisure organisation as well. I would cycle 52 miles a day to work, because I couldn\u2019t afford to get the train in. It was a time in my life when I couldn\u2019t even afford to train at the gym I worked in, but I still went training in parks. One of my local parks was going to close, they were going to use it for something else, and I thought \u201clots of people exercise in these parks\u201d but there was no way of finding that out (regarding tracking usage). So, I had the idea to make an exercise class outdoors\u2014which would not only be fully inclusive, and of a quality that would be as high as premier membership at a gym, but also accessible. We can track and tell the councils or whoever is funding it how many people are turning up, how active they were before they started the programme, and how active they have become as a result of coming on a regular basis. How does it work? We created a portal where you can sign up for free. We call our users \u2018Parkers\u2019, so you sign up to become a Parker and then book and turn up to your class. We have an instructor who has an app which taps you in to say that you\u2019ve shown up, so we can run reports based on our mandate. One of the things we do is target lots of deprived areas. So, we can say things like, \u201cOut of the users that we had, 85 percent were inactive upon sign up, from this postcode and this ethnicity. \u00a0And as a consequence of them doing free exercise they\u2019ve gone from 0 x 30 minutes a week to two or three x 30 minutes a week.\u201d \u00a0For me, that was so powerful, because it means that in the future, they\u2019re going to save a lot more on their health bill. It will lower obesity, create a better work-life balance and also the social mobility that we\u2019ve seen with people meeting in the parks and talking to people which you don\u2019t really do in a gym. Our Parks is unusual in that it provides classes for all ages, so parents can bring a child over the age of the three along. Do you think that creating inclusivity is encouraging more people to sign up as well as the fact it\u2019s free? We know that one of the main barriers for parents is on a Saturday morning, they would love to go to the gym or a class, but they have childcare issues, and the gym won\u2019t allow you to bring your kid along. Or if there\u2019s a creche it\u2019s usually full. So with this, you go to a park, and we\u2019re creating an opportunity to exercise no matter what the conditions. We\u2019ve gone from adults bringing kids, to kids classes as well, so you can \u2018park\u2019 from three upwards. We do a thing called \u2018Superhero Fitness\u2019 which is a superhero fitness gear session, bringing fun and inclusivity for kids between three and five\u2014these guys fly! If there is not a class in your borough, but there is space at a class in another area, can you join? Yeah, you\u2019re more than welcome, the councils don\u2019t mind if other boroughs\u2019 Parkers come down. And on our website, there is a thing called \u2018Help Us Grow\u2019, so if they just let us know which park and borough you want to include. We\u2019re always trying to pitch to new ones and the more interest we have from your borough, say we have x amount of people from your borough who would like to see a programme there, that does work as well. Our Parks seems to offer a pretty diverse range of classes, \u00a0how do you decide what to add? It\u2019s based on the demographic of the park, and its users. So with capoeira, we asked how many people would be interested, and had a massive response so we put one on. \u00a0We do a thing called Boxing Yoga in \u00a0Hackney\u2014even though the service is\u00a0free, we always pride ourselves on new trends as well. It has to be as good as going to a big gym like Virgin Active. What can you tell us about Our Parks, Your Business, and how is that having an impact on office workers? We\u2019re also doing a thing called Our Parks, Your Business; going into businesses, delivering an hour of exercise in a business setting, which also pays for an hour of exercise in a local community, so it\u2019s another way of getting exercise in parks that need it the most. If it\u2019s in the office, people are more likely to take part in it. There have been\u00a0studies to say if you do some exercise at lunchtime, \u00a0you\u2019ll be more productive when you get back to your desk. That\u2019s one way we pitch it to businesses. Hopefully, as a consequence, they\u2019ll see fewer sick days! You use social media a lot, and are very present in all the publicity for Our Parks. Do you think that \u00a0is important to build trust for people joining, because they see you taking part in activities? We\u2019ve grown so much through social media and user-generated content. Every session has photos which are shared. People see it and see that it\u2019s a success, you see it with ParkRun as well. The community \u00a0has been so influential in getting behind it all, and the coaches do it because they see that impact. The brands I love all have a human element; people don\u2019t talk to logos! And that was the whole point, we wanted to make it real, so people know who they\u2019re talking to. It\u2019s very visual, we tweet photos and videos, we do a daily video sequence called Fit in 15. \u00a0We started doing a thing called the Free Fitness Show, and we even do Periscopes [ live video streaming by Twitter] so if you can\u2019t make it a session you can still take part and do ten-minute workouts\u2014that\u2019s another way we engage with users and expand the reach. Initiatives like Our Parks and Good Gym seem to be fostering a strong sense of community, as well as promoting fitness. Do you think that encourages more people to turn up regularly? Yeah, Good Gym and ParkRun are good friends, and we meet up and go for runs and stuff. We all feel it\u2019s empowering for communities in giving them a voice. I\u2019ve always felt the most important part of this whole jigsaw is the user and whether it\u2019s free or very low cost; I don\u2019t think many people can keep up because their focus is on revenue. Our focus is on making a community happy, and making this sustainable through participation, a sense of community is one of the core drivers of our programme and will continue to be. I know you were an advocate of the This Girl Can campaign. Do you see more women coming to Our Parks sessions since that initiative? This Girl Can has been one of the best sporting campaigns I\u2019ve seen, just because of the way it humanises exercise and the way in which we\u2019ve seen females come down and get inspired. We humanised the brand from the start because we didn\u2019t have any other option, without a marketing budget, so we use user-generated content from our Parkers. They have been fantastic, word of mouth is our biggest generator. 87%\u00a0of our Parkers are female, which is great because when we set out, a lot of targets from local authorities were women and girls, to get them to do exercise after leaving school, and we\u2019ve done it. If you want to join the Parkers who #turnuptoneup, check out the list of\u00a0participating boroughs and sign up to get fit for free at the Our Parks website. Feeling inspired? Check out our other tips on\u00a0Frugal Fitness.