People who need fitness training and the most help developing healthy habits are often the ones least likely to seek out assistance.
That's according to Pittsburgh fitness trainer James Rounds. In addition to operating a private gym, Rounds maintains community-based fitness programs for those who need them most.
He spoke with Elaine Effort for our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories.
Below are excerpts of their discussion.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why Rounds decided to start a program focused on bringing health and fitness education to the community:
We have a for-profit gym downtown, and we just noticed the people that were coming in were not necessarily people who need to be there. So, in 2013, we started a nonprofit called One-On-One Fitness and Training to help go into the community to actually help people that actually needed the help with regards to their health and fitness.
A lot of people didn't come to us because [they might be] intimidated by the gym setting or just didn't have the knowledge in terms of what they needed. Most people think you have to be in shape to go to the gym, you know, which you can use the gym anytime. But us going out, we felt that was very important, by taking the program to the community.
Rounds on why it was important to make the program free of charge:
Making the program free was another way of taking away some of those barriers to people maintaining their health. So, as much as possible, we try to maintain it to where there are no barriers to entry. We invited people to come in as a family. Oftentimes, because the moms are usually quick to come but the husbands are not, but a lot of the times the husbands are the ones dictating the behavior of the kids.
In our community, 33-percent of us are obese, and within the home, 29-percent of the kids are obese as well. So, we felt like they're developing those habits first, right in the house.
Rounds describes how the program works, and how its tailored to the individual needs of participants:
We provide health and wellness training through programming that we do—either 60 days, 90 days, or a year in some cases—for the community for different populations, primarily disadvantaged people.
Since, we started in 2013, we've operated in the Hill District, primarily, in Pittsburgh. Currently we are in the Highland Park area, running a program called Passport to Fitness. In the past we've also been on the North Side, South Side, different places throughout the community.
I think people are averaging about 25 pounds of weight loss—primarily in our programs, but, more importantly, our ultimate objective is to change the habits, create healthy habits. So, not only just working out and losing weight, but also understanding how to eat. And also showing people how to substitute foods.
So, instead of doing like mashed potatoes, we show people how to make cauliflower—ground cauliflower. It tastes just the same, but it doesn't have a carb effect. We have some people that have been with us since the beginning, since 2013. And they continue to follow us in our programs and that's great. Again, there's a big need out there for what we do.