Workers with Disabilities Stay Fit in Florida Goodwill Health Program

Two men -- one with a disability - meditateThirty-one program participants with developmental disabilities have lost more than 165 pounds since August 2011, thanks to the ‘Get Fit Club’ health and exercise initiative implemented by Goodwill Industries-Suncoast (FL).

To combat the weight gain and low energy participants experienced due to poor eating habits and a lack of exercise, the Goodwill® has added exercise breaks and nutrition education as part of their six-hour work shifts.

“We’re teaching them that they are part of the health puzzle and that they have a choice,” Cyndi Adams, supervisor of Goodwill’s Pinellas Park job center, told Tampa Bay Online.

Each week, workers can sign up for two 30-minute activities, including Nintendo Wii, line dancing, meditation, yoga or walking. Stair climber and elliptical machines are available to use during breaks from work, and a grant from a local disability council has funded Weight Watchers classes and YMCA personal trainer sessions for some participants.

Adams notes that, like most people, individuals in the program don’t like being told what to do regarding their exercise and eating habits.  A more effective approach has been repetitive instruction, similar to job training.

One participant noted he feels healthier and doesn’t get tired as easily when taking long walks. Another commented, “If I feel hungry, I drink water. I feel good and nice and healthy and I feel like I can walk more.”

The St. Petersburg Goodwill plans to continue the program past its initial end date of August 2012 and will seek grants to help cover trips to Weight Watchers and the YMCA.

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