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April 19, 2011

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab



‘Exercise is Medicine’ kicks off campus awareness campaign  


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Instead of sitting and reading this, you should be moving – was the primary message Tuesday when a host of experts helped Slippery Rock University’s exercise and rehabilitative sciences department kick off the second phase of its “Exercise is Medicine” awareness campaign.

           Addressing a full University Union Multi-Purpose Room audience were: Adrian Hutber, vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine – Exercise is Medicine; Stephen McDonough, a practicing pediatrician from North Dakota and member of the President Obama’s President’s Council on Fitness and Sport and Nutrition; Robert Smith, SRU president; Peggy O’Brien, from the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, and Dorry Foster, executive director of the Grove City/Franklin YMCAs.

            Slippery Rock Mayor Ken Harris read, signed and sealed a proclamation declaring May as “Exercise is Medicine” month in Slippery Rock. Gov. Tom Corbett signed a similar proclaimation. Paul Dickey, Slippery Rock Township supervisor, signed up as the first local resident to join President Obama’s Million Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge.                    All of the day’s events, including a number of exercise and physical activities that followed the addresses, were designed to get individuals to consider substantially increasing their daily physical activity in the interest of better health.

           Joining the promotion, which drew an estimated 350 students, were SRU’s physical education department, College of Health, Environment and Science and those involved in the University’s nationally recognized “I Can Do It, You Can Do It” initiative.

           Carena Winters, assistant professor, and Jeffrey Lynn, associate professor, both in SRU’s exercise and rehabilitative sciences department, led the program.

           Robert Arnhold, SRU professor of physical education, spoke about the “I Can/You Can” program and its link to Exercise is Medicine, and Elizabeth Kemeny, instructor of physical education, introduced Dickey.

           Hutber, from the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis, Ind., had high praise for SRU and its efforts on behalf of the “Exercise is Medicine” program. “You are doing some great things here. This is monumental what you are doing.”

           “Many people in this country have been talking about doing something about physical activity for a longtime. Exercise is Medicine is not new. Let me tell you why I think it is unique,” Hutber said. “Remember one thing, if you don’t take anything else away from this, and that is when you look at the science of what is going to be the most likely cause of death for you and most everyone in society the highest risk factor is physical inactivity. The only thing that even comes close is hypertension. Physical inactivity is about a nine times higher risk factor than obesity.”

           “The science proves that physical inactivity is probably the greatest health burden of this century. We have to do something about it. We really have to,” he said.

           “Exercise science is unique because we believe that physical activity cannot be an afterthought. It has to be integrated into the healthcare system of this country, and indeed, globally,” he said.

           Hutber said a goal of the program is to have every doctor give every patient a prescription calling for increased physical activity as part of each and every visit. He said doctors are being urged to issue the actual prescription or refer the patient to health fitness professionals. He said many at SRU are studying to become those fitness professionals.

           He said it usually takes six to eight weeks of moderate physical activity involvement before the increased activity becomes part of a person’s normal life.

           The SRU program, led by Winters and Lynn, is “helping link doctors and nurse care practitioners in the health care system to students who need physical activity counseling so you can get this linkage between the world of medicine and the world of fitness. You are being a leader in the world and in the nation. What you are doing is of national important – and international importance,” Hutber said.

           He said the three-year-old Exercise is Medicine initiative has gone global with six regional centers – one on each continent and in 25 countries. “Governments all over the world recognize the program...congratulations to those on campus that are making things happen,” he said.

           McDonough said he gives every one of his young patients an automatic prescription calling for “five servings of fruits and vegetables a day; two hours or less of screen time a day; and an hour of physical activity a day.”

           He said childhood obesity has been a long-standing concern of pediatricians. 

           Exercise and fitness and good nutrition are critical to preventing diseases. “If you exercise on a regular basis you reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, a number of cancers, hypertension, depression and anxiety,” he said.

           McDonough outlined the Presidents Active Lifestyle Award Challenge and urged those in attendance to join him in earning the award.

           Participants in the national PALA program must agree to 30 minutes of activity on a five-day-a-week basis for six out of eight consecutive weeks. There is an online accounting system available to those who sign up at:

           Free certificates of completion may be printed from the Web site.

           McDonough also visited with SRU’s “I Can/You Can” program as part of his campus visit.

           He urged community volunteers to become involved in creating opportunities for children to get involved in exercise, including walks in parks, zoos and other locations that can be developed as a way of giving back to the community.

           He said first lady Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” program could also provide a means for community involvement and work to reduce childhood obesity and should be used as a resource.

           Smith welcomed the program to campus and noted SRU is spending several million dollars in adding laboratory space to Patterson Hall, home of the exercise and rehabilitative sciences department, to ensure that SRU students have state-of-the-art learning facilities.

           “Slippery Rock University is very invested in the Exercise is Medicine initiative,” Smith said. “We want to be a leader in that effort. We want to pilot programs to promote academia.”

           He credited Lynn and Winters for taking the lead in the program citing their “love for the program and their students in making it happen. It is the right kind of mix for making the program successful.”

           “The exercise science program is the centerpiece of the new Slippery Rock University,” Smith said. The program has seen a 41 percent growth in the last five years.

           SRU is a national partner with the President’s Counsel on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, focusing on the physical activities of our members of the community with physical disabilities.

           The Exercise is Science program attempts to shift the focus from diet and weight loss to advocating for physical activity as a potent form of medicine and the right prescription for America’s epidemic of inactivity-related conditions.
                 Exercise is Medicine proponents believe physical activity prevents diseases and should be assessed by primary care providers as part of wellness care. The ACSM and the American Medical Association created Exercise is Medicine in 2008. SRU used the national version as a model for its program.
O’Brien, an SRU graduate now with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, addressed the assembly, saying the Y’s “Activate America” program was designed along similar lines and has been successful. The Y has also signed on to the Exercise is Medicine program as part of its effort to target chronic disease issues.

           “We are trying to bring programs to our community that incorporate healthy living,” she said.

           Dorry Foster, executive director of the Grove City/ Franklin YMCA, said programs at her Y work to build bridges with partners, including SRU. “Through our partnership, which we have had for the past couple of years, we realized there are additional opportunities to be had. We see that classroom learning can be immediately applied in environments such as the Y. We are pleased that Slippery Rock University has chosen our Y to be involved in programs encouraging others to get involved in the YMCA,” she said.

           Lynn provided background on SRU’s Exercise is Medicine efforts, including the recent distribution of 250 pedometers to encourage those on campus to join the “Walk The Rock” program. He also outlined SRU’s Rock Personal Trainer program which links undergraduate exercise science majors with those needing physical activity counseling

           He said physical activity may work as well as an anti-depressant for many. A main theme, Lynn said, is that movement is effective and easy regardless of a person’s age or physical condition. Exercise is free or low cost and abundantly available. Compared to drugs, exercise offers far fewer risks, he said.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.