Q&A: Boston Moves for Health’s José Massó

We got updates on the high-profile city-wide weight loss program.

Boston runners

Runners in Boston. Photo via Shutterstock

When Fit City Boston, an initiative aimed at using Boston’s physical and built environment to enhance health, was unveiled earlier this month, it made us think back to Boston Moves for Health, the ambitious city-wide weight loss and health improvement program. So we caught up with José Massó, program manager for Boston Moves for Health at the Boston Public Health Commission, to find out where the program stands, what he would say to critics, and how you can get healthy this summer.

Are there any updates with Boston Moves for Health? How is the initiative going?

Boston Moves for Health continues to offer resources and opportunities for people in Boston to incorporate more physical activity into their day, and choose healthier options when they eat and drink. The community partnerships that we established over the past year are still going strong, and we are looking forward to continuing popular programs like Fitness on the Plaza, cooking classes, workplace wellness challenges, and the Boston Public School physical activity challenges.

How will Fit City Boston impact Boston Moves for Health?

Boston Moves for Health and Fit City Boston are complementary efforts. Fit City is looking at how the built environment plays a major role in people’s overall health. As Boston Moves for Health gets more residents physically active, Fit City supports this effort by identifying ways that community design, social policies, and resource distribution can promote the health and well-being of all Bostonians.

Some people criticized Boston for not meeting the program’s goal of losing a million pounds as a city. What would you say to them?

Everyone knows that losing weight is a challenge for individuals, and even more so for an entire city. Just looking at the number of pounds lost, however, is not representative of the success of Boston Moves for Health in other ways. We like to consider the number of Boston Public School students who added physical activity to their day; the number of people who turned out for free Fitness on the Plaza classes; or all the neighborhood and community partners that came together to help residents make healthier choices every day. And the best part is that none of these resources are going away once the weight loss challenge ends. That sounds like success to us!

Why is it important for fitness to be a city-wide goal as opposed to individual?

Mayor Menino and our executive director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, talk about making the healthy choice the easy choice. An individual can make a healthy goal, but if there aren’t resources or environment to support them, they may not be able to succeed on their own. Through efforts like Boston Moves for Health and Fit City, we are trying to create new social norms and structures that support healthy lifestyles, good nutrition, and physical activity across Boston. Plus, having a personal fitness goal is important, but knowing the whole city has the same goal may provide the motivation some individuals need to succeed.

As we move into summer, how can Boston residents use the city to get fit?

Summer is a great time to get out outside and be active. Take a walk, ride a bike, jog through Franklin Park, or stop by Howes Playground or Laviscount Playground in Roxbury to use the outdoor stationary exercise machines. Play tennis or basketball on a local court. Stop by your local community center, or take Fitness on the Plaza classes. Throw a Frisbee, a baseball, a football, volleyball, kick a soccer ball.  Have fun. The city can be your gym.