Bethesda, MD – March 10th, 2014: Fitness expert, trainer, and disabilities support counselor, Jared Ciner, has developed SPIRIT Fit and Health – a program that is breaking down barriers that keep individuals with disabilities isolated and physically inactive. The mission of SPIRIT Fit and Health is to create opportunities for those with developmental disabilities to learn to maintain and appreciate a healthy and active lifestyle, and to encourage independence and integration. Individuals with special needs are 58% more likely to be obese than the general population, as well as having an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. Ciner has created programs that are specifically designed to combat these tendencies by creating a welcoming, interactive and educational environment where individuals exercise, socialize and learn.
Ciner, Executive Director and Founder, created the idea of the SPIRIT Fit and Health (short for Social Physical Interactive Respectful Inclusive Together) after working as a support counselor at Jubilee Association of Maryland and seeing the need for a program that melded the social and health goals of his clients. Drawing on his degree in Psychology from University of Maryland, he launched in April of 2013. The eight-week program is designed to familiarize people who have Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities with healthy behavior, exercise and nutrition. SPIRIT Fit and Health partners with the Jubilee Association of Maryland 501(c)(3) to provide scholarships for individuals in financial need.
Ciner’s experience as a children’s swim instructor and Athletics Specialist volunteer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, enabled him to understand the impact that structured physical programming can have not only on a person’s physical health, but their emotional well being and social functioning as well. The SPIRIT Fit and Health was created to tap into these important elements of independent living and cater towards populations that tend to be the most under-served and un-accommodated for.
“This population typically doesn’t see a fitness center as a place catering to them,” Ciner says. “It can be intimidating.” Not only does Ciner cater towards people with developmental disabilities, he also employs them. Sam Smith, a former client with Aspergers Syndrome, now a certified trainer at SPIRIT Fit and Health. His role as a self-sufficient trainer defines SPIRIT’s mission of enabling individuals with developmental disabilities to become more independent and integrated into the community. With Ciner’s guidance and support this goal became a reality.
“SPIRIT Fit and Health is about getting exercise and moving around. And most importantly, it’s about having fun,” Ciner announced. The exercise setting has the potential to strengthen social bonds as well as muscles, Ciner says. So far Ciner has been renting space at gyms across Maryland and DC, however starting April 1st the Spirit Club will have their own permanent stand alone space to call home.