September 27, 2010
This week we would like to spotlight Family Fitness Days (FFD), a successful, community-based physical activity program in Southern California.
The Program Basics
Network for a Healthy California – San Diego & Imperial Region works with low-income Californians, increasing their physical activity and teaching them the importance of living a healthy life. Their FFD are monthly events that take place at the City Heights Farmers’ Market. The program highlights physical activity opportunities and classes taking place in the community that are either free or low cost. According to Larissa Johnson, Physical Activity and Community Youth Organization Coordinator, "The goal is to get people to realize that all they need to do is pick an activity that’s easy to fit into their lives and then do it."
FFD are multifaceted, providing interactive physical active events and a booth with physical activity information such as the Be Active Your Way fact sheets. Different physical activities are highlighted every month, alternating between aerobic activities and strengthening activities. Videos of past activities on posted on the ICanSanDiego YouTube page at: http://www.youtube.com/user/ICANSANDIEGO#g/a
The success of the program is measured by how many people are reached. Network for a Healthy California has established partnerships with local recreation centers and agencies that provide physical activity demonstrations to see if enrollment increases as a result of the FFD.
Ms. Johnson feels fortunate that the challenges have been minimal. Both the community and the Farmers’ Market have been receptive to incorporating the physical activity program. However, one of the challenges faced by FFD is lack of personnel to staff the events. Though the events only occur once a month, it is difficult to secure volunteers for the four hour time commitment. To overcome the challenge, FFD connected with professor Ellen Turkel from San Diego City College, a local community college, where students from her health class receive school credit for service learning. They have found the student volunteers to be a great addition to the project, because they want to play a positive role in the community.
Implementing a Similar Program in Your Community
Ms Johnson feels it would be quite easy to create programs similar to FFD in any community. She suggests that others should:
Connect with local resources. For a Farmers’ Market, there are always organizations, businesses, etc surrounding the market. Utilize them as a resource!
Take a look at events that are going on in your community and try to see ways that physical activity can be integrated into that event. For example, if your community has an annual pumpkin festival, that festival is a great opportunity to include physical activity. Think about using the pumpkins as makeshift cones for a relay course or a soccer dribbling challenge.
Do you have suggestions that FFD could use to build their program’s success?
How might this program be adapted for success in your community?
March 31, 2010
Over the last 28 years, I have presented hundreds of seminars on how fitness facilities can attract older adults. At almost every presentation, someone asks, "Do older adults prefer to work out with people their own age or with younger people?"
This question has always created great debate. However, the answer may be found in research done by Mark Beauchamp, an assistant professor in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Beauchamp and his colleagues found that "although older adults may report a lack of appeal for exercising with those much younger than themselves, they actually exhibit a positive preference for exercising with those of their own age."
The study, which appeared in the April issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, provides "useful insight into the preferences of older exercisers, which in turn have important implications for exercise promotion initiatives [in communities around the world]," he writes.
Could this research be one of the reasons we have not seen the predicted flood of older adults into fitness facilities? Could it be why a class filled with 20- and 30-year-olds has little appeal to those over the age of 50? Could it be why a facility that uses youth-oriented advertising misses out on a substantial number of older adults versus a facility that uses age-appropriate advertising? Could it be why manufacturers that build products that are suited to the younger market are missing the boat?
In reality, this research isn't news to those facilities that are already meeting the needs of older adults. Considering the fact that older adults are turned off by marketing that is focused on the younger generation, why would older adults not be turned off by facilities and programs that have that focus, too? It is simply the first rule of running a business - speak to the consumer and his or her needs.
What this research shows is that many older adults prefer to be in an environment with their peers. Yes, some elite, older athletes and fit adults may wish to exercise around those of similar fitness levels to themselves - young or old - but for the vast majority, they want to be around people they can relate to and people who are at the same stage of life.
What are you doing with your peer to peer programs?