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Jan. 24, 2011
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:

Grant supports SRU’s ‘Exercise is Medicine’ initiative

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University has received a $13,200 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education grant to launch its version of “Exercise is Medicine,” a health initiative that embraces physical activity as an essential part of human wellness. SRU will implement a walking program for students, faculty and staff and a health care referral system for free personal training provided by trained students Feb. 8.
           SRU obtained a Healthcare Academic Program Development Grant from PASSHE, said Kim Smith, assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences.
Unfortunately, physical inactivity is the second leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the U.S.,” Smith said.  “In addition to the obvious human toll, health problems associated with physical inactivity have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system, and a considerable influence on costs related to decreased worker productivity, restricted activity and time missed from work and school.”
         Exercise is Medicine argues that physical activity is integral in the prevention and treatment of diseases and should be assessed by primary care providers, like screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. SRU’s initiative will include curriculum enhancements, networking with physicians and developing fitness programs. SRU’s department of exercise and rehabilitative sciences is leading the initiative.
           Smith said the walking program would be modeled after Highmark’s 10,000-step challenge, a 12-week program in which participants track their steps using a pedometer.  Highmark is a health insurance company based in Pittsburgh.
         Smith said the first 250 SRU students, faculty or staff who enrolled Feb. 8 would receive a free pedometer. Registrations will begin at 4 p.m. Feb. 8 in Morrow Field House, followed by a walk beginning at 4:45 p.m. Organized walks will be offered for 12 weeks at 4:45 p.m. Tuesdays and noon Fridays, Smith said.
The second prong of the Exercise is Medicine initiative is to implement a physical activity referral program for SRU students. The McLachlan Student Health Center recently started to assess physical activity as a vital sign for students seeking medical attention at the health center. SRU health care providers are beginning to counsel patients on ways to increase physical activity and will soon be able to refer patients to qualified health/fitness professionals for free personal training, Smith said.  Exercise science senior majors will serve as personal trainers for this initiative.
         Smith said the grant would pay the salaries of the students serving as personal trainers and for the pedometers.
            Smith said the economic impact of inactivity is immense. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports direct medical costs related to physical inactivity were $76 billion in 2009, representing 16 percent of gross domestic product.
          “These costs are expected to reach 20 percent by 2016,” she said.
            Greater awareness about the importance of exercise is the first step to improving the public’s overall health and reducing health care costs, said Jeff Lynn, professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences. One of the obstacles is countering a western Pennsylvania culture that doesn’t emphasize physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine ranks Pittsburgh number 23 of the most physically active major cities among the 50 largest cities in the U.S.
            “People don’t understand how bad it is that they don’t engage in physical activity,” he said. “We want people to understand that physical activity isn’t necessarily jogging and lifting weights. It is getting out and playing and moving more. It’s something other than being still. That is how it starts.”
           Carena Winters, an assistant professor, and Joy Urda, an instructor in the exercise and rehabilitative sciences department, will assist in the implementation of SRU’s Exercise is Medicine initiative.

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.