Harlem Word: Nancy Bruning discusses the importance of eating healthy along with being physically active

Editor May 26th, 2010

Nancy Bruning, MPH, is a fitness instructor and public health researcher in New York City.  In this article, she talks about her belief that people should combine healthy eating with exercise to improve health and well-being.

Q: What is the connection between physical activity and healthy eating?

A: I'd like to see food and exercise more connected with each other.  Being healthy is a whole lifestyle change. We should do both physical activity and eat right. For example, I love the idea of community gardening-it's a physical activity that includes healthy food.  Also, Fort Tryon has park clean-ups, which is a way to get physical activity while giving back to the community. During my fitness walks in the summer, I give the group the option of walking with me to the local green market so they can buy fresh fruits and vegetables.  The Department of Health should offer programs that include both healthy eating and exercise. Parks should have Green Carts in them, where you can buy fruits and vegetables for snacking, not just ice cream and hot dogs.

Q: What are your ideas about how the Department of Health (DOH) can include subsidies for physical activity programs?

A: Right now, the DOH programs are focused on food, food, food.  Examples of this are the "Green Carts" and "Health Bucks" programs. Green Carts are produce carts located throughout New York City.  Health Bucks are $2 coupons to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets.  Providing discounts at farmers' markets is good, but why not also allow them to be used for a discount price or free class at local fitness centers?

The Green Carts are great to bring healthy food into areas of New York that don't have many options for fruits and vegetables.  I think the DOH should take it one step further and have fitness carts next to or attached to the Green Carts.  You could have a trained instructor that would help anybody who walks up to the cart and wants to do some exercises while they're waiting to buy fruits and vegetables at the Green Cart. Or, you could have exercise equipment there with instructions on how to use it.  The have incredible universal exercise machines that can be used for strength training.  I think they could easily be put on a platform trailer that can be taken from neighborhood to neighborhood, like a traveling gym.  Of course, people would need to be there to teach people how to use the equipment.  Community health workers have great potential to train people and provide health information so people can learn new types of physical activity.

Q: How can educational materials about fitness be helpful in telling people about ways to be active in their communities?

A: I love the idea of doing fitness resource guides for specific neighborhoods, such as the one I created for Fort Tryon.  It could include 10-minute walks throughout the neighborhood and show fitness facilities and recreation opportunities in parks in the area.  The guides could provide information about the facilities, or show people how to get to exercise stations in the neighborhood.  A fitness resource guide could also let people know where they can get free introductory periods at local gyms or exercise studios, or free outdoor classes in parks and recreation centers.  More and more parks are having free programs, but people don't always know about them.

If you are interested in getting in touch with Nancy Bruning, feel to contact her through her GetHealthyHarlem.org username: nbruning (click the "Contact" tab on her profile page)! You can also email her at nbfitinthecity@aol.com or call at 419-962-6292.

Read more from Nancy Bruning by clicking the links below:

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