One doesn’t need to train for a marathon to stay fit and healthy. Sometimes all it takes is a walk in the park.
That’s a point Cal State Northridge kinesiology professor Steven Loy and nine of his graduate students hope to make as they join forces with officials from the city of San Fernando to launch a new wellness program at Recreation Park that encourages the community’s residents to make healthy life choices.
“This nation has a problem with obesity,” Loy said. “Part of the problem is that some people don’t have access to a safe place to work out, while others just don’t know where to start or think that exercise is not for them. That’s where we come in. We offered our services to the city of San Fernando to develop a program that meets the needs of all their residents, from the kids in school to seniors who are looking to increase the quality of their lives.”
Loy and the graduate students spent the past 18 months working with San Fernando park officials to develop a wellness program that incorporates two fitness stations set up at Recreation Park with 24 pieces of outdoor exercise equipment to provide a free and safe exercise facility for the residents of San Fernando. The city paid for the equipment, but its installation was donated by the manufacturer, ShapesInShape.
“The kinesiology students and I will be educating the community on how to use the equipment and, in May, we will be conducting a research project involving 100 San Fernando residents, in honor of the city’s centennial celebration, who will take part in a supervised exercise program to demonstrate the equipment’s value to the people of the city.”
The centennial project also will involve several undergraduate students in kinesiology.
Ismael Aguila, operations manager for San Fernando’s Recreation and Community Services Department, said partnering with CSUN’s Department of Kinesiology was “a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the resources that exist in the community, such as the skills and talents of the students and faculty at the university and the generosity of a business like ShapesInShape, to make a positive difference for the people in our city.
“We know that living a healthy lifestyle improves the quality of our lives as we get older and studies have shown that exercise and eating right improves test scores among children,” said Aguila, who graduated from Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 1999 and a master’s in kinesiology in 2005 and assumed his position with San Fernando just a few weeks ago. “An investment in the health of our community members now will save us in costs later.”
Kinesiology graduate student Liane Fujita will be working with a group of senior citizens to help them learn how to get the most out of the outdoor exercise equipment at Recreation Park.
“My goal is to help fulfill any activity they want, whether it’s rising from a chair more confidently, walking up stairs more easily, or just getting out of bed with ease,” she said. “As we get older, it can seem harder to do the simple things that we take for granted when we are younger. Exercise can make doing those things easier, and regular exercise can go a long way toward helping older adults live a more fulfilling life.”
Loy said the San Fernando program is starting out simple, focusing on the benefits of regular exercise and showing the city’s residents how to use the equipment in Recreation Park to their best advantage, while respecting the fact that each person is different, with different goals and different capabilities.
But as he and his students continue to work with the city’s residents, Loy said they hope to expand the educational opportunities to beyond just exercise. “We can answer questions about nutrition and healthy living choices as well,” he said.
“Cal State Northridge has 1,200 kinesiology students who have a wealth of information about making healthy life choices,” Loy said. “This program gives us an opportunity to share what they know with the community and make a positive difference in people’s lives.”