Embracing Our Community

Walk This Way

Group walking

Adopting a more active lifestyle doesn’t have to mean intense gym workouts or 3-mile runs—a simple walk around the block can be a powerful step toward fitness.

This is the idea behind the Cedars-Sinai Healthy Habits step and sweat program, launched last spring for parents at Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School and Wilshire Crest, Mid-City’s Prescott and Sixth Avenue elementary schools. The program is now being expanded to 10 other Mid-City schools where Cedars-Sinai provides Healthy Habits workshops as well as to many other school sites across the city through a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Step and sweat is adapted from the Arthritis Foundation’s evidence-based Walk with Ease program.

“This new program is a great way to get people who are sedentary to begin making exercise part of their lifestyle,” says Healthy Habits Associate Director Carolyn Buenaflor, MPH. “The parents have been really responsive. It makes a big difference to be part of a group of moms who support each other.”



Pascuala Ruiz, a 43-year-old mother of three, is one of the parent “champions” who’ve been trained to lead the walking groups. The groups are part of the Healthy Habits for Families educational program for parents that Cedars-Sinai offers at many of the schools where its health educators teach workshops on nutrition and fitness for children.

Each step and sweat session includes a 1-mile walk around the school’s neighborhood. The groups begin and end with stretching exercises and take time at the halfway mark to do some calisthenics.

“I like helping people exercise for their health,” Ruiz says. “Walking is easy and fun, and it has helped me relieve stress. It makes me feel better.”

Ruiz says the parents in her group at Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School enjoy the twice-a-week, 8:30 a.m. step and sweat walks so much that they have started getting together on their own to increase their steps on other days.

Reaching More Schools

A grant from Cedars-Sinai allowed LAUSD to bring a similar program to some 45 schools through the district’s Healthy Start program, which links low-income children and families to a wide range of support services. In addition, Cedars-Sinai provided training to expand the Healthy Habits for Families program to about 10 Healthy Start centers.