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Free Public Exercise Programs Could Benefit Many Americans

By Daniel H. Rasolt

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2009

(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- Numerous dangerous health conditions are a product of poor nutrition and exercise, but many individuals lack the motivation to change their ways and protect their health. Using a Brazilian model for free public exercise, researchers at Washington University of St. Louis, in conjunction with researchers in Brazil, have recently published a study suggesting that free public exercise programs in the United States could increase the activity levels and health of many individuals.

In 2002, Brazil began the "Academia de Cidade program" (ACP), which aimed to establish free daily public exercise and health classes in major public places within urban environments. The classes include dance, calisthenics, group walks and information classes, such as diet management and nutritional instruction.

Brazil's fifth largest city, Recife, was the center of investigation for the current study. In Recife, ACP established daily classes in 21 different public places, during the hours of 5-9am and 5-9pm. For Recife's residents, the effect of the program was profound. According to the study, those individuals that were exposed to the ACP were three times more likely to have moderate to high physical activity levels now. This includes people who currently utilize the ACP classes, and those who used it at some point in the past (presumably educating them to take up a more active lifestyle). The study was conducted through surveying 2,046 Recife residents.

The researchers believe that ACP can be used as a model for populated areas in the United States, especially those with weather conducive to outdoor physical activity. Says senior author Dr. Ross Brownson, "we've seen that providing free, accessible exercise and nutrition programs in an urban setting can benefit thousands of people. We could take related steps to increase exercise and improve Americans' overall health." Co-author Dr. Eduardo Simoes states that "we think this project is an effective strategy to stimulate life-long exercise," and goes on to stress the wide-reaching effects of such a program by saying, "coupled with healthy eating, physical activity can help prevent and control diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, resulting in improved quality of life and health."

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Brownson, Ross. Simoes, Eduardo. Duke Williams, Diane. Washington University School of Medicine news release. January 2009.

Daniel H. Rasolt writes for Defeat Diabetes® News. Read more of his original content articles.

Copyright © 2009 Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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