Health Tips to Help Fight Obesity

Maria Valdez, 44, and her daughter Sarah, 20, are busy doing push-ups, swinging heavy ropes and running laps around Recreation Park in the City of San Fernando.

It’s an early morning workout led by members of 3 Wins Fitness, kinesiology students from California State University, Northridge (CSUN), who put young women, moms and dads and seniors through various exercises. The program — formerly known as 100 Citizens — began three years ago and is for anyone willing to sweat every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“I like all my children to be active and I have to set the example,” said Maria, a mother of four who previously had health concerns about having high cholesterol but now has it under control.

Their morning workout is good preparation for another event that they’re about to tackle this weekend.

Maria, Sarah, and another daughter Jessica, 23, are taking part in the Healthy San Fernando 5K Relay race at Recreation Park on Saturday, Oct. 8, where teams of three people run about a mile each to complete the course.

This will be the third year in a row all three take part in the race.

Sponsors include the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center and the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol.

The competition has been a hit with families.

“It’s a fun event. I used to be in track in high school and it reminds me of those events,” Sarah said.

“I like to run. And if I’m active, I show my kids [it’s okay] to be active as well,” added Maria. “It feels very good (to be in the 5K). You see people of all ages, even seniors. It’s a good motivation, because if they can, so can I.”

More Than The Race

The relay race will begin and end at Recreation Park, starting at 8 a.m. There is also a regular 5K run and a Tot Run, a Health Expo Screening and Family Resource Fair, entertainment and vendors.

Along with the races, there will be a Family Fitness Zone with jumpers, obstacle courses, rock wall climber, sport activities, and a Bollywood JAM session. These activities are meant to get everyone — from children to seniors — moving.

Children often run along with their moms and dads in the 5K Relay race. Multi-generational teams are one of the highlights of this community event.

Ismael Aguila, director of Recreation and Community Services for the City of San Fernando, said it’s what makes this race unique.

“It’s the family exercising together,” Aguila said.

San Fernando Mayor Robert C. Gonzales said the event is to encourage all ages “from the oldest member of the household to the youngest” to join in. “We want them to have fun while still making a healthy lifestyle change,” he said.

The fact that participants don’t have to run the entire 5K race not only attracts the “weekend warriors,” but also those who are more sedentary and may not feel up to a regular competition.

That’s all right, Aguila said. The idea is to get people interested or re-interested in exercise, which happens to many who take part in the race.

Aguila knows this firsthand. His parents are participating for the second year in a row.

“It’s like a 20-minute walk around the mall,” said Aguila, comparing the time and effort each individual in the team puts into the competition.

“You’re running and walking a mile. That brought a lot of novice individuals because you don’t have to be an athlete to compete.”

Healthy San Fernando

The event started three years ago as part of San Fernando’s Healthy City initiative to bring more attention to the plight of obesity in the Latino community here and elsewhere. The statistics for obesity related diseases are increasing at alarming rates in Latino communities across the country.

More than 77 percent of Latino adults are overweight and the obesity rates for Latino children are much higher starting at a young age. For those age 2 to 5 years old, the rates (16.7 percent) are more than quadruple those of white children  3.5 percent).

Overweight children and adults are at greater risk for developing numerous adverse health conditions that include: stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers, and depression.

As part of that initiative, San Fernando officials removed sodas from its vending machines and replaced them with healthy alternatives. But there are challenges to changing people’s habits. A McDonald’s restaurant is next door to San Fernando Middle School and, inevitably, many of the students who walk past it will stop to eat or drink fast food items on their way to and from school.

The current 5K competition is an effort to bring back a similar race the City held for many years but had to discontinue because of financial problems.

Last year about 670 people participated in the race and that number is sure to go up this year, Aguila said.

A Race for Every Age

Maria Ortiz, 71, Carmen Garcia, 64, Rosita Diaz, 69 and Carmen Guerrero 75 are four grandmas who will not spend the day cheering others from the sidelines. They are competitors who, they said, will trot, run, walk and “even crawl” to get to the finish line.

All four exercise at Recreation Park in the 3 Wins Fitness program, and they’re eager to show that fitness is for every age.

This is the third year Ortiz will be participating in  the race along Garcia and Rosa Vasquez, another senior. They will each do a mile.

“I run, walk fast, anything I can. The important thing is to do my mile,” Ortiz said. “At my age, yes you can do it. I forget all my ailments.”

“When I started coming here I couldn’t even move,” said Diaz proudly, member of “Team Rosita.”

It’s a whole family event, that begins with a tot race and moves to a 5K relay. Reaching a goal to complete the race has been life-changing for many. And a success story for the City.

“It’s a perfect fit for San Fernando,” Aguila said. “Everyone is welcome.” 

On Saturday, Oct. 8, the City is holding the 3rd Annual Healthy San Fernando 5K Relay and Family Fitness Zone, beginning at 8:00 a.m., at San Fernando Recreation Park located at 208 Park Ave., in San Fernando. For more information, visit