No-cost gym visits are associated with lower weight and blood pressure among non-Latino black and Latino participants with a diagnosis of hypertension in a multi-site demonstration project

Prev Med Rep. 2018 Feb 8:10:66-71. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.02.003. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Well documented, persistent racial/ethnic health disparities in obesity and hypertension in the US demonstrate the continued need for interventions that focus on people of color who may be at higher risk. We evaluated a demonstration project funded by the CDC's Racial/Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program at four federally qualified health centers (FQHC) and YMCA fitness and wellness centers in Boston. No-cost YMCA memberships were offered from June 2014 to June 2015 to non-Latino black and Latino adults with a diagnosis of hypertension. YMCA visit data were merged with health data for 224 participants (n = 1265 health center visits). We assessed associations between gym visit frequency and weight, body mass index (BMI), systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) using longitudinal time-varying linear fixed-effects models. The total number of gym visits over the entire program duration was 5.5, while the conditional total number of visits (after the first gym visit has been made) was 17.3. Having visited the gym at least 10 times before an FQHC exam was, on average, associated with lower weight (1.19 kg, p = 0.01), lower BMI (0.43 kg/m2, p = 0.01) and reductions in SBP (-3.20 mm Hg, p = 0.01) and DBP (-2.06 mm Hg p = 0.01). Having visited the gym an average of 1.4 times per month (study average) was associated with reductions in weight, BMI, and DBP. No-cost gym visits were associated with improved weight and blood pressure in hypertensive non-Latino black and Latino adults in this program. Additional evaluation is necessary to assess the sustainability of these effects.

Keywords: Community health centers; Exercise; Health status disparities; Hypertension; Intersectoral collaboration; Minority health; Obesity.