For the first time in its over 50-year history, Special Olympics has created a fitness video series in partnership with WWE for Special Olympics athletes, led by Special Olympics athletes. Launched in March, the School of Strength fitness campaign targets Special Olympics athletes in their teens and late 20s, and lives on www.SpecialOlympics.org. The fitness campaign features four workout videos with varying levels of difficulty in flexibility, strength, balance and endurance exercises encouraging athletes to commit to a lifetime of fitness habits. Now, more than ever, all athletes, including those with intellectual disabilities, need to keep their bodies fit and strong in a challenging routine. The videos are accompanied by downloadable interactive toolkits for coaches and caregivers that feature recipes, a fitness tracker, games and health tips. The School of Strength campaign was created in response to Special Olympics athletes’ requests for the development of more fitness resources that excite and inspire them to stay fit year-round, especially now, because like many other athletes, they aren’t able to train or compete alongside their teammates.
This fun, engaging workout video series features WWE Superstar Becky Lynch in the ring alongside six Special Olympics athletes and trains them in a series of exercises to achieve varying levels of fitness, including Superstar Trainer, Champion Trainer and Master Trainer levels. Special Olympics athletes selected to participate in this campaign and leading their fellow peers in exercise include: Angel Athenas (Special Olympics New York), Beth Donahue (Special Olympics Massachusetts), Stephanie Ching (Special Olympics Northern California), Vince Egan (Special Olympics Colorado), Gerarado De La Cerda (Special Olympics Southern California) and Greg Demer (Special Olympics Southern California). Exercises demonstrated in the videos include warm-ups exercises such as arm circles and leg swings, endurance exercises including mountain climbers and jumping jacks, balance exercises including leg lifts and half-kneeling chops and strength exercises including power push-ups and super squats.
“The goal is for everyone, no matter your fitness level, to benefit from these videos,” said WWE Superstar Becky Lynch. “It’s important to me to join this campaign and support those who are breaking barriers for inclusion.”
Special Olympics fitness programs focus on physical activity, hydration and nutrition and offer year-round fitness clubs, fitness challenges for friends and families as well as wellness classes. The School of Strength campaign is the latest addition in a selection of fitness resources created for Special Olympics athletes.
The School of Strength campaign resources augment the Fit 5 resource series developed in 2017 to educate and empower athletes to live a healthy lifestyle with the promotion of fitness cards, videos, and a guide that emphasizes exercising 5 days per week, eating 5 total fruits and vegetables per day and drinking 5 bottles of water per day. Both the Fit 5 resources and the School of Strength campaign support a Unified approach to fitness where people with intellectual disabilities can join their friends and family members for workouts in their homes or on the go. To date, the Fit 5 resources have been utilized by over 50 Special Olympics Programs in at least 36 countries. Special Olympics fitness programming has demonstrated strong impacts on health outcomes:
- 32% of athletes increased their levels of physical activity
- More than a quarter of overweight athletes lost at least 3 pounds
- Overweight athletes with high blood pressure went from 140/95 to 134/90 on average
“Fitness plays a vital role in both physical and mental health as well as sports performance. Our athletes are fierce competitors who should have the same opportunities as everyone else to be active, workout, and eat healthy. We are changing the face of inclusive health by giving our athletes opportunities to enhance their fitness even while we are all physically distanced from each other,” said Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Chief Health Officer, Special Olympics. “People with intellectual disability die on average 16 years earlier than those without intellectual disability due to preventable causes. We know that becoming and staying fit can reduce those gaps. The School of Strength campaign is a fantastic asset that encourages our athletes to not only stretch their fitness goals, but stay committed to their health journeys during these tough times.”