Washington, D.C., 21 October 2021: For the first time in its over 50-year history, Special Olympics today launched a fitness campaign aimed at Hispanic athletes with intellectual disabilities. The campaign, Escuela de Fuerza (translates to School of Strength), drops at a key moment during the pandemic when many athletes with intellectual disabilities are working out from home to avoid public spaces. According to a New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst study, people with intellectual disabilities are almost six times more likely to die from COVID-19. Additionally, Hispanic communities have been especially hit hard during the pandemic, with COVID hospitalizations higher among the Hispanic population.
Escuela de Fuerza was developed in partnership with Special Olympics Global Ambassadors and MLB superstars New York Second Baseman Gleyber Torres and Chicago Catcher Willson Contreras, who are also featured as commentators throughout the workout series. The series targets Hispanic athletes around the United States in their late teens through early thirties, and is led by five Special Olympics athletes: Tomás Monsiváis, Abigail Zamorano, and Julián Rodriguez from Texas, Belem Chavez from Illinois, and Ramón Jiménez from Nevada.
To promote health equity and reach a Hispanic audience, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with Special Olympics to fund Escuela de Fuerza. Escuela de Fuerza is based off the original and widely popular School of Strength fitness campaign that was launched in March 2020.
Housed on www.specialolympics.org/escuela-de-fuerza-espanol, Escuela de Fuerza features four workout videos with varying levels of difficulty, accompanied by downloadable toolkits for coaches and caregivers that feature recipes, games, and health tips encouraging athletes with intellectual disabilities to commit to a lifetime of fitness habits. Data collected by Special Olympics reveal that over 60% of Special Olympics athletes are overweight or obese, and one in five lower their blood pressure from high to normal after taking part in Special Olympics fitness programming.
“Now, more than ever, all athletes, especially those with intellectual disabilities, need to keep their bodies fit and strong in a challenging routine. I had lots of fun filming this campaign with Special Olympics and I hope all Hispanic athletes, no matter what fitness level, enjoy these workout routines as much as I do. I very much support Special Olympics making it a priority to reach young men and women with intellectual disabilities in the Hispanic communities,” shared New York Second Baseman Gleyber Torres.
“I’ve been a long-time supporter of Special Olympics, and last year I joined the organization as an Ambassador to further my support of their mission to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. Over the years, I met many Spanish-speaking athletes with intellectual disabilities and made an immediate connection. Their determination inspired me to work on the Escuela de Fuerza campaign to get others excited about working out and getting fit,” shared Chicago Catcher Willson Contreras.
Fitness plays a vital role in both physical and mental health as well as sports performance. To date, over 150,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities have taken part in Special Olympics fitness programming worldwide.
“Our athletes are fierce competitors who should have the same opportunities as everyone else to be active, work out, and be healthy. We are changing the face of inclusive health by giving our athletes opportunities to enhance their fitness. People with intellectual disabilities die on average 16 to 20 years earlier than those without intellectual disability often due to preventable causes. Becoming and staying fit can reduce those gaps. Escuela de Fuerza is a fantastic series of videos and materials to encourage our Hispanic community of athletes to not only stretch their fitness goals, but stay committed to their health journeys.”
 CDC MMWR Report; Sebastian D. Romano, MPH1; Anna J. Blackstock, PhD1; Ethel V. Taylor, DVM1; Suad El Burai Felix, MPH1; Stacey Adjei, MPH1; Christa-Marie Singleton, MD1; Jennifer Fuld, PhD1; Beau B. Bruce, MD, PhD1; Tegan K. Boehmer, PhD; https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7015e2.htm?s_cid=mm7015e2_x
About Special Olympics
Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.