For people suffering from mental health conditions and illnesses, staying healthy can be a mind game—it’s easy to forget the benefits of physical activity on the brain.
This is why the TU Collaborative on Community Inclusion, a rehabilitation research and training center within the College of Public Health, organized its first Physical Activity Fair at the Student Center Oct. 8. With education and exercise sessions from local fitness and health groups, the fair raised awareness for connecting those with psychiatric disabilities to community-based resources.
Brandon Snead, a recreation therapist for the TU Collaborative and a coordinator of the fair, expressed how this part of the population is not always thought of when it comes to physical health, but it’s just as important.
“When you are physically active, it’s also well-documented that that comes with a host of other outcomes that we’re looking to help our clients with,” said Snead, who earned his bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation in 2013. “They include the social benefits, social wellness.”
Many of the organizations and agencies in attendance focused on free and accessible ways to serve the needs of physically and mentally struggling community members.
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, which mainly focuses on children’s after-school programs gave out information about other free programs and activities offered.
Some Temple alumni who now work with health outreach groups held sessions teaching exercises.
Allen Ung, a 2008 alumnus, works with Philly Gets Fit, a fitness studio on Washington Avenue near Front Street in Queen Village that taught community members chair fitness at the fair. Ung was surprised and happy to see the many other health groups making impacts all around the city.
“Seeing what other people are doing to live a healthy, active lifestyle is amazing,” Ung said. “Sometimes you feel like it’s just us.”
Ung also holds fitness classes at the Bell Tower Fridays at 5:30 p.m.
Erik Burling, a 2007 alumnus, is the co-founder of Roots Philly Yoga Project and taught attendees chair yoga. He said the event was a “perfect fit” for him, with Roots Philly’s efforts in serving the local homeless population, to which the group gives free yoga classes.
“I’ve always just sort of felt drawn to help that population, so for me it was like combining two passions—I love yoga, I also love outreach with underprivileged populations,” Burling said.
Gretchen Snethen, assistant director for the TU Collaborative and assistant professor of the therapeutic recreation program, came up with the event as a way to inform health clinics on the importance of teaching clients how to be independent in their community.
“We know that good things happen inside the walls of those healthcare facilities, but a lot can happen outside of those walls and we need to be thinking about how to support people to engage in their community,” Snethen said. “But also so that they can take ownership of healthy behaviors and really integrate in into their life.”
Since about 125 people attended the fair, Snethen hopes to annualize the event and increase student interactions. Megan Murphy and Lou Klein, co-founders of Deck Conspiracy, a local group promoting the use of card decks for workouts, also saw the fair as a success in promoting activity for all.
“The community response was incredible, from younger people to older people,” Murphy said. “I mean, we think that this is for everybody and that the key is to use the body that you have to get stronger, rather than trying to change yourself from the outside in.”
Albert Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.