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Be Well Program sees rising numbers

staff writer

Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011

Updated: Monday, December 5, 2011 01:12

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A USU FACULTY MEMBER uses the facilities at the USU Wellness Center. The center’s Be Well Program received the Healthy Worksite Gold Award this year for its efforts to increase healthy habits on campus. The program has now won four consecutive awards for its work. Statesman file photo

USU's Be Well Program won the Healthy Worksite Gold Award this year. This is the fourth consecutive year the Be Well Program has received an award.

The Be Well Program, facilitated by the USU Wellness Center, was started in 2008 by Caroline Schugart. When health costs for the university began to increase, university administrators decided it was time to invest in a wellness program, said Dayna Barrett, interim wellness coordinator.

The Be Well Program is an initiative to get faculty and staff to lead healthier lifestyles and get into shape and offers a little bit of everything — fitness classes, a free fitness assessment and health benefits through a health advocate, Barrett said. The program also poses health challenges each month.

Of the Healthy Worksite honors, there are three levels organizations can apply for: silver, gold and platinum.

"The only reason we haven't won platinum award yet is that you have to have the program for at least five years," Barrett said.

The Be Well Program doesn't encourage just faculty and staff to get involved, but their families as well. Barrett said she feels the whole family needs to be involved and work as a team to transition into healthy lifestyles.

"You need the whole group accountability to get things done and to encourage each other to get healthier," Barrett said.

She said an important element of the Be Well Program are the wellness ambassadors. Faculty and staff who want to be involved with the program can be selected to be ambassadors and are charged with spreading the word about different facets of employee wellness.

Such facets include promoting health challenges, healthy eating and exercise, said Shannon Johnson, wellness ambassador and executive assistant of the College of Education.

"I'm supposed to spread the word out to co-workers about the wellness program and different activities and events that they have, and try to be an example for them at all times," Johnson said.

Johnson started a Weight Watchers group on campus in May 2007, which was incorporated into the Be Well Program. Throughout the course of 19 12-week sessions, the group has lost a total of 2,681.41 pounds, she said.

With the support of the Wellness Center, once someone has lost 10 percent of his or her goal, the Wellness Center will help pay for the next session. In January, the start of Weight Watchers' 20th session, the wellness program will pay $25 for each new member who joins, Johnson said.

"The Weight Watchers program is a great program that goes hand in hand with everything else that the wellness program is doing. We're so lucky here on campus to have so many other facilities that support an active lifestyle," Johnson said.

Johnson said some of the things she appreciates are the walking paths around campus, and the multiple fitness classes the wellness program offers, such as water aerobics classes, boot camps and the fit forever classes.

The classes are offered at a much lower fee than local gyms, Johnson said.

"The university treats us very well, and helps us. They give us the tools we need; people just need to take advantage of them," Johnson said.

Alex Baldwin, a fitness instructor for the Be Well Program, said he was amazed with the faculty and staff for the effort he sees them put into their health. He said he has seen people get off anti-depressant and cholesterol medication through exercising.

Some classes fitness instructors offer are yoga, water aerobics, boot camps and stability ball classes. They also perform fitness assessments and do free one-on-one training with participants. Employees can also get a free 15-minute chair massage and free help from the prevention agency that partners with the program, Baldwin said.

"It's fun to see people be able to do something they couldn't do before," Baldwin said. "Somebody comes to fit club and they can't do a push up from their feet, and after six weeks or one or two sessions, they can do five or 10 push-ups."

Baldwin said the program has a profound effect in employee's lives. From taking stairs instead of using the elevator to exercising on vacation in hotel rooms, employees are taking control of their health.

He said one person even asked for a low-calorie IV supplement during a hospital stay, instead of a regular one.

The most challenging part of running the program is getting the word out to faculty and staff, Baldwin said.

Participants put out promotional posters, hold events and competitive challenges within different departments, but some people are still unaware of the Be Well Program, he said. The program also gives out items like water bottles, T-shirts, gym bags, massages and free meals as incentives.

"People are seeing differences in their daily living just by following our guidelines for the challenge," Barrett said. "It's having a big impact on our employees, and I hope it continues year after year."

 

– marissa.shields@aggiemail.usu.edu

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