One in five school-aged children is obese, which increases their risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. But many communities simply don’t have the resources to fight this public health epidemic.
Fortunately, a long-standing UCLA program continues to help schools provide much-needed training and facilities for their students. the UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind program has installed fitness centers in more than 130 underserved middle and high schools in California, Colorado, Florida and Massachusetts.
During the 2016-2017 school year, 12 Los Angeles schools were among the newest sites to adopt the program, expanding the initiative to an additional 15,000 students. Research from UCLA found that the initiative made a significant difference in their ability to pass California’s mandatory state fitness test, Fitnessgram.
Across all 12 schools, only 37.8% of students passed the test before the equipment was installed and the program was offered; after only eight weeks of the program, 57.3% of students passed. In one of the schools, the pass rate increased from 8% before the program to 44% after eight weeks; at another, the success rate rose to 81% from 38% eight weeks earlier. (Researchers tested groups of 100 students at each school.)
“Our population, and especially our young people, are getting heavier, and that is extremely troubling,” said Dr. David McAllister, UCLA orthopedic surgeon and member of the Sound Body Sound Mind Academic Advisory Board. “Obesity leads to chronic diseases that require medication and can have major health consequences. In many cases, these can be avoided with diet and exercise.
Sound Body Sound Mind provides schools with state-of-the-art fitness equipment and trains physical education teachers in a program designed to motivate students and build strong foundations for healthy lifestyles.
Dr. David McAllister
The researchers also conducted behavioral surveys in the 12 new Los Angeles school programs. They found that the initiative helped improve students’ self-image and encouraged them to adopt healthy habits. The number of students who said they always or very often agreed with the statement “I feel good about my body,” for example, increased by 5 percentage points overall after just eight weeks in the program.
In addition to enhancing a school’s existing physical education resources, Sound Body Sound Mind has the added benefit of creating safe spaces in Los Angeles schools for students to become physically fit, which is especially important for schools located in crowded or unsafe areas.
“Many of the communities where we implemented this program had no gym equipment, and there was no opportunity for students to be physically active,” said Matthew Flesock, the executive director of the program. “By learning to use this equipment in middle school, students find activities they enjoy and start building healthy habits.”
One of the twelve schools in the new analysis was Luther Burbank Middle School, which received stationary bikes, rowing machines and a range of fitness accessories for its students.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God! There’s so much!’ I was curious what I was going to do first,” said Grade 8 student Priscilla Aguinaga. “At first, I couldn’t stay on the stationary bike for long. started to gain strength and stay longer – and I felt great.
Sound Body Sound Mind is currently focused on setting up new centers in Southern California schools, but the program could be replicated anywhere in the United States. Implementing the program in a new school typically costs between $40,000 and $50,000; the program works with donors and local foundations to help schools cover these costs.
The program began in 1998, when philanthropist Bill Simon was approached by a friend to donate equipment to a Los Angeles high school. Word spread quickly and other schools began making similar requests, prompting Simon and his wife, Cindy, to start the Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation as a resource for schools and instructors across the states. -United. The organization partnered with UCLA Health in 2015.
“We’ve created a template that any school district can use to strengthen their physical education programs and create lasting fitness habits for their students,” Simon said.
Twenty years after its debut, the model still works.
“Encouraging children to develop healthy habits, healthy lifestyles and learning to be active – these are great lessons for children at an early age, and they can have positive consequences throughout life” , McAllister said.