Skip to main content

Performance Center helps Native Americans fight diabetes

April 28, 2009

Arizona State University’s growing Diablo Performance Recreation Center is using its health and exercise platform to help the Native American Fitness Council (NAFC) fight a growing epidemic of diabetes among its youths.  The center, located at ASU’s West campus, will host a two-day Native Youth Fitness Leader certification workshop on May 14-15.

“Our involvement in this program is important, because it provides us the opportunity to reach out to a segment of the community,” says Keith Munson, director of the center.  “ASU’s vision of excellence, access and impact is well-served in our partnership with NAFC; we’re providing access to our facilities at a locale that makes it more convenient for all to participate.”

The program will attract as many as 30 Native American fitness trainers to the Valley and is designed to help prevent the high incidence of obesity and Type II diabetes affecting Native American youths.  The training certification teaches individuals how to work and motivate Native American youths.  The program includes athletic drills, fitness play, basic exercise principles and the leadership skills necessary to positively impact the youths’ exercise habits.

“This program is very important,” says Brian Laban, NAFC director of training and fitness who helped found the council in 2004 as a division of the Institute for Sports, Health & Fitness.  “With the rising rate of childhood obesity and the ever-increasing numbers of Type II diabetes in children, we cannot just sit back and hope someone develops a pill to fix the problem.

“A common statement that is made is, ‘We just don’t want to throw kids a basketball and let them shoot around for a couple of hours.’  With the Native Youth Fitness Leader program, we show how to work with the youth by giving them different tools to make fitness fun.”

Laban reports Native American fitness trainers are coming from as far away as Alaska to attend the workshop, the third annual program hosted by the Diablo Performance Recreation Center.

“There is a great need for trainings and certifications to be brought out to Native country,” says Laban, who is a Hopi/Tewa and lives in the Hopi village of Moenkopi, Ariz., near Tuba City.  “There are a lot of talented Natives out in their communities who really want to help their people.  Natives see that if there are Natives out there on a national level, then they feel they can get the certifications and get out to the communities to make a difference.

“Keith and the Diablo Center are making it easier to be a part of the participation process, from a location standpoint, and the fitness center also provides the fitness atmosphere and gives others another perspective of how fitness centers are run.”

Munson sees the May 14-15 workshop as a win-win for ASU and the NAFC.

“The participants will take back the performance techniques learned to their own community centers and schools,” he says.  “There is a real need for wellness in Native American communities because of the high percentages of diabetes and other health issues.  By providing a modern fitness facility and professional service, we are doing our best to help curb health challenges among Native Americans.”

ASU's West campus Diablo Performance Recreation Center is located in the University Center Building (UCB) and is open to students, faculty/staff, family members and alumni on a fee basis.  The 6,000-square foot facility houses a fully equipped weight room, aerobics room, men's and women's locker rooms, and is accessible to accommodate individuals with disabilities.  Amenities at the center include group aerobic classes, weight machines/free weights, cardiovascular equipment, and the capability to do fitness assessments and body composition analysis.  In addition to a fully equipped fitness center, the facility also checks out recreation equipment with any ASU ID card for use on its basketball courts, racquetball courts, sand volleyball courts, and the multipurpose soccer/football field.