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ASU, YMCA to host Y Race Fitness Fest


September 19, 2013

The Valley of the Sun YMCA and Arizona State University are hosting the inaugural Y Race Fitness Fest, an interactive community health event and expo, Oct. 18, at Civic Space Park on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The free community event will kick off the festivities for Arizona’s oldest running event, the 45th annual Y Race Phoenix, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 20. rooftop pool Download Full Image

The Y Race Fitness Fest will feature an assortment of health and wellness information, as well as interactive demonstrations and activities from ASU, the YMCA, the city of Phoenix and other organizations. Y Race registration and packet pick-up also will be available during the Fitness Fest at Civic Space Park (424 N. Central Ave.). The Fitness Fest is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

MidFirst Bank is the presenting sponsor of this year’s Y Race Fitness Fest. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, MidFirst has 25 banking centers across the Valley and serves more than 600,000 customers nationwide. In 2012, ASU and MidFirst Bank announced an 11-year comprehensive strategic alliance that consolidates personalized banking services.

“We are pleased to sponsor the Y Race Fitness Fest,” said Jeff Lowe, MidFirst Arizona market president. “Just as we advocate personal financial fitness, we appreciate the opportunity to promote physical fitness, as well.”

At the Fitness Fest, the Valley of the Sun YMCA along with ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation and College of Health Solutions will provide information and activities for all ages. Attractions will include healthy food tastings, such as parfaits, and a variety of fitness challenges, like jump rope and hula hoop contests.

Representatives from the colleges will be on hand to provide complimentary health screenings. This will include blood pressure and body mass index readings. The colleges also will provide interactive experiences that help people make healthier meal choices. There will be nutritional trivia as well as displays showing how much fat and sugar are in popular foods.

The YMCA will be setting up a “Healthy Village,” which will have a variety of demonstrations and healthy living information. Demonstrations will include group fitness, personal training and adult sports. Yoga, Zumba and aerobics demonstrations will be available.

Youth attractions provided by the YMCA will feature a water safety dunk pool, a soccer goal kick-off and a bounce house. The YMCA will also be providing information on its youth programs, such as child care, sports and camps.

During the Fitness Fest, attendees can tour the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA and ASU’s new Sun Devil Fitness Center. Unveiled in August, the Sun Devil Fitness Center is a $24.1 million, 73,800-square-foot facility that features state-of-the-art weight and fitness areas. The new center also has a two-court gymnasium and an outdoor rooftop leisure pool.

Information will be available at the Fitness Fest on the fitness classes offered at the YMCA and the Sun Devil Fitness Center.

Health experts from Obesity Solutions also will be available to show people how to create a healthier work station with a stand-up desk. They will share easy steps to increase activity at home and work, as well as technologies that can help make smarter health decisions. Obesity Solutions is a partnership between the Mayo Clinic and ASU that identifies, tests and shares innovative ways of addressing obesity. For children, Obesity Solutions will be offering an art station for them to draw their understanding of health.

As part of its FitPHX initiative, the city of Phoenix will be providing a variety of healthy living activities and information at Fitness Fest. FitPHX is a Phoenix citywide initiative, led by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Councilman Daniel T. Valenzuela and Olympic gold medalist Misty Hyman, with the goal of making the Valley one of the healthiest regions in the nation.

"We're very proud to partner with ASU and the Y on the new fitness festival because it is the perfect way to promote health and wellness within our community," Stanton said.

Valenzuela will be at the Fitness Fest to discuss the FitPHX initiative.

"This event brings together community partners that are experts in health and fitness in one of our city's newest urban parks to offer resources, tools and support, and help residents reach their personal FitPHX goals," Valenzuela said. "Together, we will reach our goal of becoming one of the healthiest cities in the nation."

The Fitness Fest is the latest addition to the Y Race, which features a half marathon, a 5K race and a one-mile "fun run" that is free for children. All events start and finish at the 16,000-acre South Mountain Park, one of the country’s largest city parks.

Reporter , ASU Now

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Professor 'thinks around the edges' of obesity problem


September 23, 2013

Research looks at complex interactions between human biology, culture

As an anthropology graduate student in the late 80s, Alexandra Brewis Slade carried out field projects in the Pacific Islands on women’s fertility and family planning. While Pacific Islanders at that time were among some of the most overweight populations on earth, she never heard obesity mentioned as a health problem even once. The islanders scolded her for being “too skinny” to attract a husband. Download Full Image

When she moved to expand a Samoan body image project at the University of Auckland in the early 90s, a colleague warned her that obesity was a marginal area for a social scientist to work in, a bit odd and freakish, and its explicit study was probably not the best career move.

Brewis Slade persisted, going on to study the cultural aspects of a high rate of school children’s obesity in rural Georgia and central Mexico, many of whom were at high risk for being obese. Now a widely-cited expert, she has been working on comparative studies of obesity, based on field research in a broad array of countries, such as Paraguay, New Zealand and Fiji.

The recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship and an Andrew W. Mellon post-doctoral fellowship, she has published 55 papers and three books, including “Obesity: Cultural and Biocultural Perspectives” in 2011. She is director of ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change and director of operations for the ASU-Mayo Obesity Solutions Initiative.

Brewis Slade notes that in a stunningly short time, obesity has gone from being considered an aberration in both popular culture and scientific circles to being perceived as a massive global threat. Unlike many global calamities such as climate change, no one seemed to notice the dramatic rise in obesity until it was well under way.

“Obesity is arguably one of the greatest public health challenges we face, infiltrating almost every aspect of our lives,” says Brewis Slade. “It shapes whether we get into college, the job offers and promotions we get, how much money we make, our access to health care, our romantic relationships. We are bombarded in the media with messages about the need to be slim and lose weight.

“We associate obesity with moral failure, with a lack of control, laziness and lack of ambition. The stigma of being obese is profound, and it causes tremendous emotional suffering. The social cost is just as important to address as the health cost.”

Cruel comments about weight are socially acceptable in many circles, and are a leading factor in childhood bullying, she says.

She also has found that globalization has spread the stigma associated with obesity from the western world to other parts of the world, including regions that previously viewed large body size in a neutral or positive light. Her research shows that negative media and public health messages about obesity are so powerful that they overshadow the positive support of family and friends in shaping how people feel about their large body size.

Her most recent work on obesity-related stigma particularly appears to have hit a cultural nerve. Her comment, “Of all the things we could be exporting to help people around the world, really negative body image and low self-esteem are not what we hope is going out with public health messaging,” was quote of the day in the New York Times and was mentioned on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which she notes with good humor.

Her research team’s work on obesity also has focused on university students, based on research conducted at ASU.

They have confirmed that obesity is socially contagious and the risk of a woman’s obesity rises if her friends and family members are obese. Shared eating and exercising habits may have the strongest correlation. Currently, her team is working with a start-up company to design ways of using smart phones to connect friends and family to exercise together.

“There are lots of reasons why we gain weight and we know that telling people to ‘eat less and exercise more’ doesn’t work. We’re swimming upstream with that approach because people are working long hours, they don’t have time to exercise or make home-cooked meals. We have to look at what’s possible to change.

“Instead of blaming people for their condition, we need to step back and look at the structure of our cities, our neighborhoods, our schools and our campuses, that shape health at every level.”

She works with ASU students enrolled in research practicum classes to do research on the campus, such as surveys, focus groups and interviews with other students. Fat stigma is surprisingly high at ASU, she says; about 20 percent of students would rather be blind than obese. Her work with undergraduates has a view to designing more healthful campuses, from the perspective of people’s norms and behaviors related to weight, exercise and nutrition.

Brewis Slade’s research is ultimately concerned with the complex interactions between human biology and culture, looking at human health in the context of massive transformational processes, such as globalization and climate change. She enjoys working in diverse collaborative teams, a factor that led her to join ASU in 2006.

“ASU is a fantastic place for someone like me who thinks around the edges of problems,” she says. “I’m inspired and invigorated by the transdisciplinary environment at ASU. It’s an energetic, exciting place and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.”

She believes the partnership with Mayo makes it possible, for the first time, for a university to think of tackling the challenge of obesity on a global scale.

“What makes ASU able to attempt this is the comprehensive nature of our expertise, and the scale and scope of our collective research. We have people with talent and expertise that can be applied to almost any aspect of the complicated problem of obesity, from the built environment, to food choices, to genetics. ASU’s coverage is unmatched in the volume of different ways we can devise to tackle the problem.

“Partnering with Mayo gives us additional access to talent in the medical understanding and treatment of obesity. This provides us with a truly massive shared toolkit to address the complicated challenge of obesity.”

The School of Human Evolution and Social Change is an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.