Health and Wellness for the Community

Woman working out virtually

By Thomas E. Mills

Being cooped up in the house has taken a toll on everyone. Going to the gym, an exercise class, or getting outside to play a pick-up game or be active in other ways has become increasingly difficult due to public safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Recognizing the challenges around staying active and practicing self-care, the Harvard Ed Portal began to look for ways in which to be a resource for those seeking health and wellness opportunities.

"During the pandemic, we quickly realized that it was especially important to focus on one’s physical and emotional wellbeing," said Jason Clark, who manages wellness programs for the Harvard Ed Portal. "Without the ability to gather in-person, it was important for the Ed Portal to create opportunities for community members to stay connected, to manage stress, and combat isolation."

The Harvard Ed Portal, working closely with Harvard Recreation, began offering a variety of programs and perks, including programs exclusively for Ed Portal members. Programs range in activity and are targeted at all fitness levels. On Monday’s and Wednesdays through April 28, Izzie Ryan and Taryn Burns from Harvard Recreation have each respectively developed strengthening and yoga programs they teach over Zoom. The Izzy and Taryn developed the programs to work together to help people become more flexible, stronger, and increase their endurance – no matter what skill level someone comes to the program with, they will be able to get a good workout under the guidance of Izzie and Taryn. Another program offered is Yoga Nira, a yoga practice that can be done while sitting in a chair, for those who may want a lower impact introduction into yoga.

The wellness programs offered don’t stop at physical fitness, either. A host of programs focused on financial wellness, exploring topics such as budgeting, credit, and debt are also available. A number of these programs are produced in Spanish as part of a partnership with the Harvard University Employee Credit Union. The Ed Portal also engaged with My Ngoc To, a mindfulness instructor to recreate a four-part program she taught in the fall focused on meditation and social justice, a program they hope to offer again.

Something the Ed Portal stressed is they wanted to provided options to the community—different days, different times, and programs for all abilities. Working with their partners they’ve developed a suite of wellness programs that Ed Portal members can take advantage of when it works for them.

Ed Portal members have also been able to access deeply discounted memberships to specialty online offerings including access to training and fitness programs. These memberships are still available to active Ed Portal members.

Additional programming will continue throughout the spring, with new offerings being developed based on feedback received from past attendees. Be sure to check back here for more information as it becomes available.