One doesn’t need to train for a marathon to stay fit and healthy. Sometimes all it takes is a walk in the park to get you started. A video of that walk in the park, and exercises everyone can do, is taking California State University, Northridge kinesiology professor Steven Loy and some of his students to the White House.
Loy and his students last summer teamed with officials from the city of San Fernando to launch a new wellness program, “100 Citizens,” at the city’s Recreation Park that encourages the community’s residents to make healthy life choices. A video highlighting the program received the most online votes from the public in a national competition created to help tackle childhood obesity. As the competition’s Popular Choice winner, “100 Citizens’” organizers will be invited to the White House for a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama on a date yet to be determined.
“This is still sinking in,” said Loy, who learned about the honor last week. “I hope the win will help us spread the word that you don’t have to have a lot of money or gimmicks to help people achieve healthier lifestyles. It’s as simple as using the resources we already have: the knowledge and wherewithal of kinesiology faculty and students at local universities or colleges and the cooperation of local park and public health officials.
“By working together, we can make a healthy difference in people’s lives,” Loy said. “We’ve done that with ‘100 Citizens,’ and our model can be replicated across the country and it can be easily tailored to the specific needs of a community.”
Loy and his kinesiology 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 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 kinesiology education comes in. We know how to create a progressive program and, of equal importance, how to implement the program for any population.”
The San Fernando program, which launched last year, was such a success that Loy was soon asked by the Network for a Healthy California, Los Angeles County park officials and officials with the city of Pasadena to replicate it at four other parks.
A video of the “100 Citizens’ collaborative project was submitted to Let’s Move! Communities on the Move, a challenge launched by First Lady Michelle Obama that invited faith-based and community organizations to share their stories about their efforts to promote wellness and solve the problem of childhood obesity in their communities. More than 61 videos from 21 states were submitted.
A panel of judges from Let’s Move!, the USDA and HHD chose one winner and several Honorable Mentions. The Popular Choice Award was given to the eligible video with the most votes online, in this case “100 Citizens: Role Models for the Future.” All the winners will be invited to the White House and will meet with First Lady Michelle Obama.
“With lots of creativity and a great sense of fun, these congregations and organizations have shown us the inspiring work being done across the country to help our children lead healthier lives,” said Michelle Obama. “Everyone wants to see our nation become healthier, and these contest winners have shown us that by taking steps big or small, each of us can play a role in solving the problem of childhood obesity. I hope more people are inspired by these organizations to work together for our children’s health.”
Loy said that’s his goal as well.
“‘100 Citizens’ is such a win-win for everyone,” he said. “University kinesiology departments get to demonstrate the depth and strengths of their field. The students are more than willing to take what they have learned in the classroom and give back to the very communities some of them come from. The parks and public health people get to underscore the important roles they play in their community members’ lives. And the community benefits by having people who listen to what they say and respect cultural and other aspects of their lives as they create a program that helps the residents expand the opportunities for them to do so much more in their lives. The healthier a person is, the more opportunities there are for them to enjoy life.”
Loy’s goal is to have “100 Citizens” offered by kinesiology programs across the country.
The 100 Citizens program is free to participants but registration is required at 208 Park Ave., Recreation Park, San Fernando, CA. The class runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:15am-9:15 am. Learn about the other classes offered when you visit the park office. For more information about the “100 Citizens” program, contact Loy at firstname.lastname@example.org.