Local schools get gym make-overs to inspire health and fitness

Los Angeles Academy Middle School and UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind representatives celebrate the grand opening of the school's new fitness center on March 1, 2017. 

Getting fit just got easier at a dozen Los Angeles-area middle and high schools.

The UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind program selected the schools as part of its ongoing effort to bring commercial-grade fitness equipment to underserved schools and, in doing so, help students improve their fitness test scores and establish lifelong healthy habits.

Some of the schools had worn out equipment with broken or missing parts, while others lacked equipment entirely. Each school renovated its work-out space, and the UCLA program brought in new high-grade equipment to create a state-of-the-art fitness center.

“Depending on the needs of the school, our donation included cardiovascular equipment such as stationary bikes, rowing machines and elliptical machines, along with exercise equipment such as weight machines and fitness accessories,” said Matthew Flesock, program manager of UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind.

The donations at each school ranged from $40,000 to $50,000 and were supplemented with funds from local foundations, Flesock said.

The Sound Body Sound Mind grants included a comprehensive curriculum for P.E. teachers focused on boosting student confidence and making physical education participation more enjoyable. Sound Body Sound Mind will also provide additional grants for the upkeep of the equipment.

Each school celebrated the grand opening of its new center with a festive school-wide assembly followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and student demonstration of the equipment.

The UCLA Health program donates funds for eight to 12 new fitness centers each year. Over the last 18 years, the organization has invested more than $4.5 million in schools across Los Angeles, installing more than 115 fitness centers, training over 400 physical educators and serving over 100,000 students every year.

To widen the impact of the program, some locations open the fitness center before or after school hours so that faculty and community members can take advantage of the equipment. Often, these fitness centers are the only safe place in the neighborhood to get exercise. KABC-TV featured a story on the principal of Alfonso B. Perez Career and Transition Center who lost 51 pounds by exercising in the school’s fitness center.

Most important, the program is making a difference. A study conducted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs found that the program’s curriculum tripled the rate at which students passed the California state physical fitness test. Further, all schools with the SBSM program have shown increases in student fitness and behaviors towards health and wellness.

The Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation was created by philanthropists Cindy and Bill Simon in 1998 and partnered with UCLA Health in 2015.

The 12 schools opening their new centers this year were:
• Francisco Sepulveda Middle School in North Hills
• Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood
• Henry T. Gage Middle School in Huntington Park
• John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica
• John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills
• Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica
• Los Angeles Academy Middle School in South Los Angeles
• Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park
• Nava College Prep Academy High School in South Los Angeles
• St. Monica Catholic High School in Santa Monica
• Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Feliz
• Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood.

Visit www.uclahealth.org/soundbodysoundmind for more information.

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