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uGO returns! Free outdoor fitness and health education come to West Philadelphia

August 9, 2013

The peaceful and shady SaundersPark comes alive on Saturday mornings with fun free fitness activities and healthy living education.

Passersby will notice folks of all ages, shapes, and sizes running, lunging, stretching, and dancing together. Oh, and did I mention sweating? Yes: that, too. They come to be more physically active, but also to have fun with their neighbors.

UGO started off two years ago in West Philadelphia with the goal of bringing people out of their houses into public spaces to get physically active and have fun doing it together. Now uGO is back and being implemented by People’s Emergency Center (PEC) with the blessings and support of its original founders. Drexel Medicine is also helping out, providing health screenings and offering health consultation to uGO participants.

Through uGO, PEC hopes to equip residents with the knowledge, confidence, and relationships necessary to become healthier and prevent chronic disease. By measuring indicators such as Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, and blood sugar levels at the beginning and end of the program, PEC and Drexel hope to demonstrate the impact of uGO on the health of participants. As one guest instructor said, “This can be a revolution: us exercising and being healthy out here, so that we don’t have to end up in the hospital!” Who knows? Community wellness initiative today, healthy revolution tomorrow?

The program also expands PEC’s relationships and engagement with residents, who they can connect to helpful resources and keep involved in other community development efforts in the future. A crowd of exercising, dancing people and lively music also helps activate SaundersPark, a key asset to this corner of West Philadelphia.

The 2013 uGO Challenge lasts until August 24th, after which PEC will likely host monthly potlucks to keep folks involved and connected. There may be opportunities to bring uGO programming to other spaces in West Philadelphia, as well. For example, uGO could add a grassroots fitness and wellness component to PHS and Drexel’s new GreenResourceCenter in Mantua, and could help energize folks around the proposed Mantua Greenway along Mantua Avenue. Partners are discussing these ideas in addition to planning for a longer, 10-week Spring uGO Challenge in 2014.

LISC has played a role in convening the Healthy Communities Initiative, a collaborative of partners looking to impact health outcomes in LISC’s target neighborhoods. HCI partners identified uGO as a priority early action project in West, as well as a parallel community fitness program in Eastern North. LISC has also supported PEC as a core agency of the Sustainable Communities Initiative in West Philadelphia (SCI-West) since 2008.

LISC is excited about the program’s potential to build community, and to engage residents in positive, healthy activity. and then mention that we support PEC in a variety of their programs Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Partners in LISC’s Healthy Communities Collaborative agree, and hope to contribute to building uGO’s impact and reach as it evolves.

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