“It is just not fair that other people do not have the opportunity to attend a program like this in their local parks,” he said. “I am fortunate to have such program in my local park.”

En Español

With the energy of a young person, José Montelongo, 74, starts his day in a park after dropping off his son at the school’s bus stop. Montelongo makes sure that his son boards the school bus and then rides his bicycle to a park that helps him improve his health.

The dedication to improve his health is immense.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, without missing a day, he joins an exercise group of about 20 people in San Fernando Park.

Sergio Zambrano, a volunteer instructor for the free Diabetes Prevention Program 100 Citizens, says Montelongo gives 100 percent in every exercise and is an outstanding participant because of his determination and focus.

Montelongo is one of the four men that participate in the Diabetes Prevention Program.

He would walk in the park in the morning and one day he came across a flyer that promoted a program that would help prevent diabetes in the community. The program caught his attention because aside from offering free exercise classes, it also offered free nutrition classes.

“Exercise and nutrition go hand and in hand in order to have a healthier life and the nutrition classes are so important because I can learn how to eat healthier,” he said.

Since the beginning of the program in January, Montelongo has struggled to lose weight.

The last time he weight himself he said he weighed 195 pounds (88kg) and that he has not lost a lot of weight.

With good humor Montelongo jokingly compares his weight to the fluctuating Mexican currency, “sometimes I go up, sometimes I go down.”

Christopher Balam, 24, a student-trainer for the beginners exercise class, describes Montelongo as a “happy and energetic person.”

“José is always happy to participate in the program and is always determined to do all the exercise,” Balam said.

“It is hard for men to participate in this program because there is a negative image of the men who participate in an exercise program where the majority of the participants are women,” Balam said.

Balam is proud of the four men that are participating in the program.

“Hopefully they motivate a few more men to come and participate in the program,” Balam said.

Another problem for the lack of men in the program is the schedule.

“There were men that were interested in attending the program during registration,” says Zambrano, “but the schedule of the program interferes with their work.”

Even though there are few male participants, those who do participate give their all during the exercise class.

Eric Hunter, a participant, tells Zambrano that he really enjoys the program and even when he fractured his knee, he still attended the mornings to work out.

Zulay Saldaña entrevista a José Montelongo, de 74 años, uno de los pocos hombres que participan en 100 Ciudadanos en la ciudad de San Fernando. Foto de Zulay Saldaña / El Nuevo Sol.

Zulay Saldaña interviews José Montelongo, 74, one of the few men participating in the 100 Citizen’s program in the City of San Fernando. Photo:  Zulay Saldaña / El Nuevo Sol.

The Diabetes Prevention Program is divided into two sessions. The first session is dedicated to exercise and the second session is a 25-minute nutrition class.

After every exercise session, everyone comes together in a classroom to take notes on how to eat healthier.

This part of the program is very important for Montelongo because of his age. He mentioned the various pills he has to take on a daily bases and says that the doctors do not have the slightest intention of helping him improve his health.

“To these doctors I am just another patient,” Montelongo said.

The doctors only tell him that he needs to walk more and to try to do more exercise. But Montelongo is well aware of the business behind prescribed medications, he said.

Montelongo has lived in the United States for 44 years since arriving from the Mexican city of Juárez, Chihuahua.

When he arrived to California, he made San Fernando Valley his home.

He recently decided to quit his job at a cemetery to devote his time to care for his son, who has Down syndrome.

He devotes time to his son but he does not forget about taking care of his own health.

He has taken some of the suggestions that they offer in the nutrition class and explains that he feels he has more energy.

For example, for breakfast he eats something light before working out and he has cut back on eating greasy foods.

He prepares himself a shake with apples, grapes and blackberries along with a granola bar in the mornings.

When he goes grocery shopping, Montelongo is more careful about what he buys.

“I now buy more green vegetables, fruit for my shakes and a little bit of fish and I am cutting back on meat,” he said.

Montelongo has other concerns aside from his health. He realizes, for example, that there is a lack of programs that help the elderly.

“The government should support and fund these types of free programs, instead of wasting money on the war in Iraq,” he said. “They do not worry about the elderly people.”

Although Montelongo is an active participant of the free exercise program offered at the San Fernando Park, he is still concerned for those who do not have this opportunity.

“It is just not fair that other people do not have the opportunity to attend a program like this in their local parks,” he said. “I am fortunate to have such program in my local park.”

After finishing his morning exercise and nutrition class, Montelongo gets on his bike and continues his day, keeping in mind that he has to improve in his eating habits in order to have a healthier life style.

Tags:  #100CitizensCSUN 100 Citizens 100 Citizens Program CSUN Kinesiology diabetes diabetes prevention health San Fernando San Fernando Park Zulay Saldaña Lopez

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