The GVSU Recreation & Wellness Center kicked off Exercise is Medicine (EIM) month with its fourth-annual Walk with the President event Oct. 4.
Students met with President Philomena Mantella at Cook Carillon Tower at 10 a.m. for a two-mile walk around Allendale Campus. They also checked out a wellness fair, which offered a flu shot clinic, health screenings and a raffle in the Kirkhof Center.
EIM month promotes engaging in physical activity to prevent chronic disease and lead a healthy lifestyle. It also encourages health care providers to incorporate exercise in their patient treatment plans.
GVSU is part of a growing movement of over 250 campuses around the world and 10 campuses in Michigan participating in EIM. The college seeks to rise from silver to gold level certification in EIM practices.
“Physical activity is a vital sign, not in place of medication, but as an alternative,” said Amy Campbell, Associate Director of Fitness & Wellness at the GVSU Recreation & Wellness Center.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, nearly half of U.S. adults do not meet the recommended level of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Almost one-third of U.S. adults report exercising less than 10 minutes per week.
Physical activity reduces the risk of contracting illnesses ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. It also correlates with economic savings through reduced health care costs, increased work productivity and higher academic achievement.
“A majority of Americans lead sedentary lifestyles,” Campbell said. “A lot of what we do on a daily basis is sitting.”
The GVSU Recreation & Wellness Center reports that GVSU students remain more physically active than the average U.S. adult. From 2014-2018, the center found that the number of students reporting moderately physical activity at least four days per week increased from 58 to 60 percent.
Participation in group physical activities remains high as well. During the 2018-19 year, 3,431 students played in an intramural sport a collective 27,302 times. Around 1,272 students bought a group exercise pass, and 2,000 students participated in one of 52 club sports.
But many GVSU students also report feeling stressed out and sleep-deprived. In a survey conducted by GVSU’s health center, 23 percent of participants reported experiencing difficulty in their life and 21 percent of participants said that a lack of sleep negatively impacted their grades.
While most students recognize the importance of physical activity, they often face competing needs such as finishing homework, working a job or joining a club. These pressures make the idea of adding new commitments seem daunting.
“The biggest thing people say about physical activity is ‘I don’t have time,’” said Health & Wellness Coordinator Lindsey Desarmo. “We should ask, ‘How do we look at time differently?’ ‘How much time do we spend on our phones or social media?’ ‘Is that five minutes when we could take a walk?’”
Not all students enjoy hitting the gym for an hour-long workout or playing team sports. But they do not necessarily need to participate in traditional exercise routines to get active.
Christopher Dondzila, assistant professor of exercise science, pointed out that new technology has made it easier to exercise in a convenient, social way. A person can wear a FitBit tracker and monitor their steps along with friends or hop on a Peloton bike for a 20-minute virtual class.
Beyond checking out new gadgets, Dondzila recommends building movement into a daily routine. Small changes like taking the stairs, parking a long distance from campus or looping around a building can add up.
Adam Freeman, President of the GVSU Exercise Science Club, believes that people often forget to make physical activity fun. He said that students should try starting friendly competitions, fitness challenges or walking groups.
“There’s this idea of play,” Freeman said. “A lot of people like playing games, doing things that are not super serious. People sometimes misconstrue exercise as this super structured thing.”
GVSU recently added “wellness” to the Recreation Center’s name to emphasize this shift in perspective, seeking to help students integrate wellness into their schedule.
The “Walk with President” also emphasized how taking a short break to walk around campus not only helps one’s health, but one’s mental and spiritual well-being
“It’s stressful to be a student; we know that,” said Loren Rullman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “Wellness is a lifelong challenge, and the trick is to learn to manage it. Go easy on yourself and ask for help.”
For more information about wellness, visit www.gvsu.edu/rec.