FERNANDO, Calif., ó Itís early on a Wednesday morning and
this cityís Recreation Park is bustling with dozens of
people doing sprints, leg lifts and squats as enthusiastic
students from California State University, Northridge cheer
excited?" 19-year-old Celeste Alcala asked as her group
lifted exercise balls.
the men and women responded in unison.
State students are instructors in a free exercise program
offered at parks in the San Fernando Valley, South Los
Angeles, San Francisco and Stanislaus County. The participants
are mostly Latino, and many had never exercised regularly
before joining the group. Several have diabetes, high blood
pressure or other chronic diseases.
Fuentes, 53, attends the exercise boot camp three times each
week. She said it has motivated her to change her diet, lose
weight and start hiking with her husband on the weekends.
Fuentes said her blood pressure is under control, "and I
have a lot of energy now."
program, 3WINS Fitness, started at Recreation Park in 2011
before expanding to several other sites. Cal State Northridge
Professor Steven Loy, who founded the program, said he and his
students are working to bring the program to parks throughout
California. Their goal is to partner with other Cal State
campuses and train their students to run the programs in their
3WINS got its name from the idea that it is positive for
students, participants and the community.
program, he said, helps people get moving ó and meet the
federally recommended exercise requirements ó without having
to pay for expensive fitness club memberships. The federal
government recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of
moderate aerobic activity each week and do muscle
strengthening exercises at least two days during the week.
are trying to make it as easy as possible," said Loy, who
teaches kinesiology and exercise physiology. "It provides
an avenue for people to exercise who either canít afford it
or arenít comfortable in a traditional gym setting."
what attracted Maria Barajas to the classes. Exercising at the
park is "way better than the gym," the 59-year-old
said. She likes the studentsí energy and has developed
friendships with her exercise partners. "This is like my
other family," she said.
park-based programs like 3WINS help increase physical activity
among low-income residents and can prevent or lessen the
impact of chronic diseases, according to Deborah Cohen, senior
scientist at the RAND Corporation who conducted an evaluation
of the program in 2015.
of the most potent medicines is regular physical
activity," Cohen said.
found that programs like Cal Stateís give people the
motivation to use parks for exercise, and that such
collaborations could be a model for other communities trying
to increase the physical activity of their residents and
reduce chronic diseases. While other parks around the nation
offer recreation or exercise classes, they arenít typically
free. Overall, Cohen said, parks are underutilized, especially
in low-income areas. And park-based programs that do exist
generally target youth rather than adults and seniors,
according to another study by Cohen.
State program, which was recognized by Michelle Obamaís Letís
Move campaign, is unique because of the partnership between
parks and state universities, Cohen said.
Recreation Park, participants also can have their blood
pressure checked and participate in student-run diabetes
prevention and management classes.
can receive academic credit for volunteering, which Loy said
gives the program built-in sustainability and eliminates the
need for outside funding. The students not only apply what
they are learning in class but they also gain business and
the volunteers, 24-year-old Aidee Corona, said she was
interested in the program because her mom and grandma both
have diabetes and she wanted to see how exercise could help
people change their lifestyles.
said that since she started volunteering about two years ago,
she has learned more about how to communicate with people and
"how to motivate them to keep exercising." She
graduated in the spring and said she is planning to become a
Alcala, who is in her second year at Cal State Northridge,
said she was a little intimidated at first but soon became
more comfortable leading the groups. "I have definitely
grown a lot as a person," she said. "Itís a good
said she is glad to be able to use what she is learning in
kinesiology classes, including how different exercises work
different parts of the body. "It is a lot different when
you read something and when you see it in person," she
the San Fernando program started, Recreation Park was
frequently empty, said Ismael Aguila, the cityís director of
recreation and community services. The city rarely could get
enough people to participate in a low-cost exercise class.
People also regularly took naps in the park, he said.
parks here in the city were suffering significantly,"
Aguila said. "They were really underutilized."
boot camp run by the students attracted people to the park and
gave the city momentum to get more involved in public health
efforts, Aguila said. Now, he said, San Fernando is offering
additional classes, which provide revenue that helps pay for
equipment used by the 3WINS volunteers.
said all parks should have exercise programs to help increase
physical activity around the nation. "That would promote
health and wellbeing and it could reduce health care
costs," she said.