After more than a year of closures and limited capacity restrictions, gyms and physical fitness centers are up and running again as California’s economy reopens.
Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke from an In-Shape Health gym in Bakersfield Wednesday about his new initiative to promote Californians’ overall health: a new advisory council on physical fitness and mental well-being.
The advisory council, to be co-chaired by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and former San Francisco 49ers player and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Lott, aims to close equity gaps in fitness and health education across the state, particularly among children.
“We have no fitness goals as a state. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t have to be the only fitness governor,” Newsom said, joking about the former governor and bodybuilder.
The council plans to look more holistically at the health of Californians, emphasizing mental well-being as a key part of physical fitness. Siebel Newsom said that health education must begin in the early years of elementary school, to promote an active lifestyle and healthy eating choices that in turn promote better learning and prevent chronic diseases into adulthood.
“As a lifelong athlete and proud mom of four, I know that physical fitness and mental health are intrinsically bound together,” Siebel Newsom said.
“While there’s no doubt that the pandemic has impacted children’s physical activities, increased their screen time and heightened their levels of stress and anxiety, inequitable access to economic, physical and emotional health supports contributed to health disparities in California long before the pandemic even reached our state, so there is much work to do.”
The fifteen-member council will include representatives ranging from health and wellness organizations, youth sports programs, education and the entertainment and fitness industries, among others, according to the Governor’s Press Office. Members will be named at a later date.
Some of the council’s goals aimed at children are to provide more accountability over the competitive sports industry to avoid children’s burnout and injuries, and to find ways for children who aren’t athletes to be physically active along with their families.
But for Californians of all ages, Siebel Newsom sees the council as a way to address deeper structure and cultural inequities, such as socioeconomic and gender gaps, to make physical fitness attainable for all.
The council will advise on physical activity and wellness goals, educate people on nutrition and overall healthy living, and facilitate collaboration between local, state and federal stakeholders in the private and public sector to promote physical activity and mental wellness.
“This isn’t about sculpting a body, this is about health,” Newsom said. “There is no bigger driver of costs — locally, state, private sector or public — than healthcare costs. We should all be worried about long term healthcare liabilities in the state and the nation.”