Every Wednesday morning, 3WINS Fitness—a free fitness program started by Cal State Northridge professor Steven Loy—gathers at Northridge, California’s San Fernando Recreation Park. Dozens of men and women, electrified by the excited cheers of student leaders, engage in squats, leg-lifts, and sprints. The program, offered at parks throughout Los Angeles and in San Francisco, started with a simple goal: get people moving.
The participants are mostly low-income minorities. Many have pre-existing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Most could not afford a gym membership, and almost all of them never exercised regularly before starting with 3WINS.
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According to Steven Loy, as interviewed by L.A.’s SCPR, the program “helps people get moving, without having to pay for expensive fitness club memberships.” The program aims to meet the federally recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week. They also include muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week as well.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible,” Loy said to SCPR. “It provides an avenue for people to exercise who either can’t afford it or aren’t comfortable in a traditional gym.”
“It’s way better than the gym,” 59-year-old Maria Barajas told SCPR reporters. “This is like my other family.”
The participants aren’t the only ones benefitting from 3WINS. The name itself was created from the idea that it brings together a wider community—it benefits the students who run the classes, participants, and the local community. Students receive academic credit for volunteering their time, which makes the program sustainable, while also gaining leadership and on-the-job career skills. The participants receive the obvious health benefits and create new social ties with those in their community.
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It’s even helping the parks. Before the program started at San Fernando Park, the grounds were frequently empty, according to Ismael Aguila, Northridge’s director of recreation and community services, talking to SCPR.
“The parks here were suffering significantly,” he said. “They were really underutilized.” Now, the park is bustling with activity, at least when 3WINS is there.
3WINS is such a success that Loy and his team of students are working to expand the program to parks across California. The ultimate goal is to partner with other Cal State campuses and train their students to run the program in their local parks.