Russia - 2012
Fitness Program Gives Russian Youth Access to Healthy Lifestyles
Striving to reverse a trend of poor health habits and low life expectancy in the Russian population, a project funded by a US$205,000 Alcoa Foundation grant is creating fitness and healthy lifestyle opportunities for youth in two cities.
Lack of health services within Russian communities and the poor health habits of the country’s citizens are driving factors behind life expectancy rates that average 59 years for men and 73 years for women (compared to 75 and 81, respectively, in Europe). An unhealthy lifestyle often develops early, particularly in low-income families that do not have access to gyms and sports clubs. Russian men also have high incidences of alcohol abuse and tobacco use, both of which typically start in their youth.
Working with local non-governmental organizations, government authorities, and schools, Alcoa’s Samara and Belaya Kalitva locations initiated the Youth Votes for Health project to begin developing healthy habits among the area’s youth.
Through the Alcoa Foundation funding, nine schools in the two cities received outdoor fitness complexes and a modern health curriculum developed by university students and a professional fitness trainer. The students and trainer also trained the physical education teachers in each school on how to use the curriculum and equipment, which included climbing frames, running tracks, and weight-lifting benches. In addition, students in the senior grades received training so they could demonstrate the equipment’s proper use to younger students, who ranged from first to tenth graders.
More than 4,300 students in both communities have used the fitness complexes, with one third working out on the equipment at least two times a week. The complexes are also being used by members of the community.
“It’s great that we now have free fitness complexes in our community,” said Olga Kolodenko, a student in the Belaya Kalitva area. “I think everyone now has an understanding of what a healthy lifestyle means. Some of my classmates got interested in my exercise routine and joined me. Two of them have quit smoking. For me, this is a small but important result, and it is only the beginning. Always and everywhere I will promote a healthy lifestyle.”