In this bad economy, many women have lost jobs, had pay cuts or experienced other financial hardships. Because of this, some who had once belonged to a health club can no longer afford it. Of course, there are many more whose budgets had never been able to afford a fitness center to begin with. In addition, tight money is sometimes a reason why people eat foods that aren’t very healthy.
Gift of Fitness is a charitable organization existing to meet the physical fitness and nutrition education needs of low-income women. The program is a simple, cost-effective solution to the problem of poverty-related poor health.
Gift of Fitness is located in Ingleside, Illinois, with programs taking place at our host facility, Venus Fitness, in Fox Lake.
Gift of Fitness is the only program in northwestern Lake County and northeastern McHenry County providing low-income women with all of the following:
- Free, unlimited access to a secure, 24/7 women’s fitness center
- Free exercise classes
- Free nutrition education classes and nutrition counseling
- Free health screenings
- Encouragement and a welcoming place of community for local women
Gift of Fitness was started when Virginia Svoboda, owner of a local women’s fitness center, saw that low-income women who might have the greatest need for physical fitness and nutrition counseling opportunities also had the least access to them because of their finances. Research shows a strong correlation between low income, obesity, employment discrimination, and health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Higher stress and poor self-image can result. These factors, taken together, can create a vicious cycle.
During the summer of 2012, initial steps were taken to begin Gift of Fitness as a way to help low-income women break out of this cycle. We met with directors of food pantries, social service agencies, community centers and government entities. All those we spoke with stated that there were unmet needs in our geographic area that the Gift of Fitness programs would address.
Gift of Fitness helps women to get healthier, feel better, look better, gain a higher energy level and experience a better quality of life. Their higher energy levels and greater knowledge of good nutrition benefit not just the women served but their families as well. The wider community benefits, too, in terms of lower healthcare costs.