California State University, Northridge kinesiology professor Steven Loy and dozens of his students are joining forces with community leaders across Los Angeles County as they launch free, park-based wellness programs that encourage residents to make healthy life choices.
The effort, dubbed “100 Citizens,” grew out of a project Loy and a volunteer team of Cal State Northridge graduate and undergraduate kinesiology students started earlier this year at Recreation Park in San Fernando. That program was such a success that Loy has been asked by the Network for a Healthy California, Los Angeles County park officials and officials with the city of Pasadena to replicate it at El Cariso Park in Sylmar and Villa Park in Pasadena beginning next month.
“Kinesiology is the study of human movement,” Loy explained. “With physical inactivity closely linked to obesity and subsequent development of diabetes, heart disease and other chronicle problems, the need to find an affordable solution to get people to be physically active and also educate the participants is critical. The estimated costs of diabetes and obesity in California alone is $45 billion dollars. This screams for a no/low cost solution to reduce obesity and diabetes.
“100 Citizens San Fernando and the upcoming programs can be that solution,” he said.
Loy and a team of graduate students spent more than a year working with San Fernando recreation officials to design a free fitness program that would dispel the misconception that one needed to join a fitness center or be a serious athlete in order to stay healthy.
“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. This is where a kinesiology education comes in. We know how to create a progressive program and, of equal importance, how to implement the program for any population.”
By offering their services to the residents of San Fernando, Loy and his students wanted to demonstrate that adopting a healthy lifestyle does not cost a lot of money. And, while it may start with something as simple as a walk in the park, it’s just as easy to add strength-building exercises and increase exercise intensity to gain even greater health benefits, he said.
They started their project by recruiting100 San Fernando residents, in honor of the city’s centennial celebration, who would take part in a supervised exercise program using equipment at Recreation Park. CSUN graduate and undergraduate kinesiology student volunteers were on hand to demonstrate exercises and answer health questions.
The initial five-week program focused on the benefits of regular exercise and how to use the outdoor exercise equipment Loy convinced the city to install at the park to its best advantage. The CSUN team also respected the fact that each participant was different, with different goals and different capabilities. The succeeding six-week program, which concluded this week, showed participants how they could add other exercises to their routines and work with a group to push themselves harder, have fun and see greater results.
Loy said he and his students plan to continue their relationships with the residents of San Fernando as the program expands to Sylmar and Pasadena. A new San Fernando program at Recreation Park is slated to begin after Labor Day.
“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 we know with the community and make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Loy said he hopes other universities will follow Northridge’s lead and implement similar projects in their surrounding communities.
The “100 Citizens Leap for Fitness” project at El Cariso Park in Sylmar is scheduled to begin Sept. 19. The “100 Citizens Get Fit Pasadena” at Villa Park is scheduled to begin Sept. 26.
For more information about the “100 Citizens” program, contact Loy at firstname.lastname@example.org.