Bowser Launches Health Initiative

Mayor Muriel Bowser launched FitDC, a citywide health initiative aiming to connect residents to local nutrition and fitness resources, at the Takoma Recreation Center on Saturday.

The FitDC initiative will build on the city’s healthy reputation, working to broaden the scope of accessibility and affordability of health services to middle class residents, while also providing more personal wellness services.

Bowser expressed optimism that the initiative will further the gains the city has made in fitness over the past few years at the launch event.

“As we build pathways to the middle class for residents in all eight wards, it is equally important that our residents are healthy and living active lifestyles,” Bowser said at the launch event. “Through this initiative, we will educate, encourage and challenge our residents to adopt healthier life choices.”

In a 2014 ranking of 50 major cities around the United States by the American Fitness Index, the D.C. metropolitan area ranked first in community health and third in personal health. Among the indicators used, 81 percent of D.C. residents had exercised in some capacity in the past 30 days, while 59 percent reported being in excellent or very good health.

Since the launch, the initiative’s immediate goal has been to build a coaching program, soliciting trainers from the community, to encourage residents to stick with their fitness and health goals.

The Department of Health and the Department of Parks and Recreation will coordinate the initiative, which is currently searching for sponsors and citizens to join its mission to bring more fitness and health options to the city’s middle-class population.

“The next step for this initiative is recruiting the FitDC Coaches, local residents who will lead the fitness challenges [and] serve as role models,” D.C. Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt, who joined Bowser at the launch, said at the event. “[They will] encourage residents to eat healthy and move more.”

Nesbitt said she believes the program will be a solid foundation for city residents to improve their exercise regiments.

“We launched FitDC because we’re committed to the idea that everyone has the ability to improve their personal health,” Nesbitt said. “[Citizens should be] provided with the knowledge and support to take control and accomplish their goals.”

Yates Field House Associate Director Charles Kennedy said that Georgetown was not contacted about joining the program.

Regardless, Kennedy noted that the Georgetown facilities would probably not be able to accommodate FitDC due to the high volume of Yates users every day, a problem Kennedy said many other D.C. facilities share. Currently, Yates sees close to 3,000 visitors a day.

“[O]ne of the problems I think [FitDC] might face is that the D.C. population is increasingly growing,” Kennedy said. “[And] the facilities to accommodate the youth, to do either outdoor recreation or indoor hasn’t really expanded.”

Kennedy added that the D.C. tax on health and fitness institutions, which went into effect in October, could be another challenge for the program to overcome, as it may inhibit those places from expanding to meet increased demand.

“I think they’re going to run into problems finding resources to support this program,” Kennedy said. “[A] lot of schools and areas don’t have what they need to take care of just their own student population.”

Alec Kingston (SFS ’18), who frequents CorePower Yoga, expressed hope for this initiative due to the high volume of workout facilities present in the city. He said that health and fitness options often come at a high price, which FitDC could help ameliorate.

“I feel that D.C. has so many options like Soulcycle, Purebarre, Washington Sports club, Core Power, Down Dog, et cetera, but unfortunately, especially for students on a budget, those options can just be too expensive,” Kingston said. “It would be nice if D.C. worked to find more reasonable options for day-to-day ways to say fit, like a YMCA.”

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