Friday, July 27, 2012

Creating a sustainable exercise program in the Bronx

This spring, Bronx Health REACH and the Institute for Family Health began offering a regular exercise group for community members from the University Heights area of the Bronx. Every Monday to Thursday morning the group met at PS 204 and engaged in a different set of exercises depending on the day of the week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the group walked from PS 204 to Roberto Clemente State Park, then walked within the park, and finally back to the school for a total of almost three miles. On Tuesdays, the group participated in a Zumba class and on Thursdays, a stretch band and muscle training class.

Initially, many of the exercise group participants found it difficult to complete a full exercise routine or to complete the three mile walk without taking frequent breaks. However, over the last five months, the members have reported significant improved health outcomes, including lower blood pressure, weight loss, lower glucose levels for those with diabetes, and a general feeling of being more in control of their health. In addition, this exceptional group of women have made friendships and formed bonds with each other- exemplified by the giant water fight had on one particularly hot summer morning. The small and intimate classes offered them a way to be physically active without feeling judged and they say that this makes all the difference.

Most importantly, the women have pledged to continue exercising together even after the Bronx Health REACH HealthCorps members for 2011-2012 complete their terms and will no longer be able to lead the groups. To ensure they continue to get their daily exercise, the group has reserved a community room in the apartment building where some of the members live to hold a Zumba class every Tuesday and Thursday. It will be led by Darlisa Evans, a member from the exercise group, who initially had a very difficult time completing an entire 45 minute routine. Darlisa has an exceptional weight loss story of her own and is dedicated to helping other women and men realize that they too can lead healthier lives and lose weight. On Wednesdays another member, Wendy Williams, will be leading a yoga class, and on Mondays and Fridays, Betty Robertson, also a group member, will be leading a stretch band group and a walking group in the neighborhood park. By working together these women have turned a program led by Bronx Health REACH into a sustainable exercise program run by the participants.

Bronx Health REACH is very proud of all of these women for their commitment in creating a sustainable and long-running program without outside intervention. With their dedication, the residents of the University Heights community will have access to free exercise classes led by their own neighbors.

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