School of Kinesiology and Nutritional Science, Cal State L.A. | Spotlight

Stretching, balancing, jogging... Cal State L.A., Esperanza collaborate to promote a healthier South Los Angeles

Photo: CSULA students teaching the promotores how to improve posture through exercise.
CSULA students teaching the promotores how to improve posture through exercise. Photo: CSULA student Gabby Lovato (left) demonstrates how to use a playground swing to work on stretching.
CSULA student Gabby Lovato (left) demonstrates how to use a playground swing to work on stretching.

Photo: In the Mobility Center, student Karen Moreno (center) shows the basics of balance equipment use.
In the Mobility Center, CSULA student Karen Moreno (center) shows the basics of balance equipment use.

Recognizing the importance of providing sustainable health and wellness solutions to underserved populations, a group of kinesiology majors at Cal State L.A. recently spent a period of 10 weeks training community health promoters, also called promotores, at the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation.

Under the direction of CSULA’s physical therapist Connie Wong, the kinesiology team helped address the fitness needs of those in the Figueroa Corridor, which is part of South Los Angeles, by teaching the promotores the basic concepts of health and exercise, such as stretching/flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, strength training, and balancing. The goal was for the promotores to “pay it forward” and teach others in the families and communities how to live a healthier lifestyle.

“Every Friday, our students traveled to where the promotores live and work to show them these concepts in their own environment,” said Wong. “Together, we taught them how to use common household objects as exercise tools, and we demonstrated to them that fitness can happen anywhere.”

For example, CSULA students presented some work-out routines to the promotores at a local park with the use of a tree, a swing, a bench and a jungle gym.

“I was part of a team of student trainers who taught the Esperanza community promotores how to achieve all these levels of fitness in home, work and outdoor settings, so that they can learn how to stay healthy without the expense of a gym membership,” said Karen Moreno, a kinesiology major with an emphasis in rehabilitation and therapeutic exercise.

On certain Fridays, the promotores had the opportunity to train at the University’s Mobility Center, getting guidance on putting together a balanced exercise routine and learning how to utilize gym equipment.

While educating the promotores to live and advocate for a healthy-balanced life, the CSULA students also obtained valuable real-world experience and innovative ideas to overcome income, environmental and language barriers.

“I learned how to be creative when exercising in different environments that aren’t typical, and I also learned how to work with people of different fitness levels and how to modify exercises for each individual,” said David Maldonado, a kinesiology major with an option in therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation. “The most significant part of this project for me was watching the promotores of Esperanza teach people in their community the things we had taught them.”

The promotores, putting their new-found knowledge to practice, recently participated in a health fair sponsored by Telemundo at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“The community health promoters at Esperanza Community Housing Corporation has truly benefitted from the partnership with Cal State LA.,” said Lupe Gonzalez-Hernandez, director of health programs at Esperanza. “The promotores reside in areas that lack the open space to be physically active and are part of a community who are prone to developing life-threatening health conditions.”

She added, “Connie Wong and her students have not only taught the promotores the hands-on concepts and techniques of physical activity, but has inspired us to take this message back into our communities.”

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