April 12, 2011
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Slippery Rock University launches ‘Exercise is Medicine’ program
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Two nationally recognized health experts will help Slippery Rock University officially launch its version of the global health initiative “Exercise is Medicine” Tuesday. The University is calling for a seismic shift in the campus and community culture to embrace physical activity as an essential part of human wellness and disease prevention.
The program shifts 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 such as heart disease, diabetes and depression.
“We live in a society full of ‘thou shalt not’ – don’t smoke, don’t eat food high in cholesterol – there are a lot of don’t do’s,” said Jeff Lynn, SRU professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences. “We are programmed to hear the don’ts. What we are not programmed to realize is that in order to be healthy, you must exercise.”
He said SRU can be a “great pocket of greatness in advocacy for Exercise is Medicine. Let’s educate. Let’s excite. Let’s ignite. Let’s get people moving more.”
The University will mark the launch from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the University Union Multi-Purpose Room. Speakers will include Robert Smith, SRU president; Andrian Hutber, vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine, Exercise is Medicine; Stephen McDonough, a member of President Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; and Slippery Rock Mayor Ken Harris.
Exercise is Medicine argues physical activity prevents diseases and should be assessed by primary care providers as part of wellness care, like screening for hypertension and high cholesterol. The ACSM and the American Medical Association created Exercise is Medicine in 2008. SRU used the national version as a model for its program.
SRU did a soft launch of the program in the fall and recently introduced a 10,000-step walking program. The comprehensive initiative will include curriculum enhancements, networking with physicians and new fitness programs.
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, Lynn said.
Carena Winters, SRU assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences, said she realizes long school and workdays leave many people exhausted, with little energy for anything more demanding than operating a remote. That’s why the program emphasizes taking the “work” out of workout and making exercise fun.
“As our surgeon general now says, we need to stop focusing on weight and start focusing on activity and enjoying it,” Winters said. “We are changing the mindset so that ‘exercise’ is not a bad word. Let’s make it fun, let’s make it enjoyable, let’s bring people together to change the culture and make this a community effort.”
Lynn said it is “dead wrong” to assume that you have to run five miles a day, lift weights or spend endless hours at the gym to prevent chronic health conditions.
“It’s a matter of controlling what you do. It is walking for 10 minutes, getting up and dancing, or playing Frisbee,” he said. “We want people to realize that being inactive is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, which everyone knows is detrimental to health. What people don’t often think of is it is detrimental to your health to not perform certain behaviors, and that includes getting up and moving.”
Physical activity helps prevent and treat a wide range of medical conditions, including arthritis, high cholesterol, asthma, clogged arteries and cancer, Lynn said.
“We want people to accept and embrace the idea that moving does have all these positive and effective benefits,” he said. “Just moving has amazing health benefits, better than most pills,” he said. Lynn said he is not advocating that people stop taking their medicine.
Those people who need to lose 100 pounds or more should realize that physical activity is a good way to get started.
“If you’re 200 pounds overweight, losing that weight is an overwhelming proposition,” he said. “But if you can take one step right now, today, by walking for 10 minutes and have the discipline and an unwavering belief that you can make a change, that’s all it takes to get started. You can’t start with losing 200 pounds. You start with the moment.”
The initiative also aims to produce an expectation among patients that health care providers should prescribe exercise to prevent health conditions. Lynn said SRU hopes to bridge the gap between physicians and health care providers by providing students to develop activity programs for those who are unsure about a fitness strategy.
One of the obstacles, Lynn said, is countering a western Pennsylvania culture that is not quick to embrace physical activity. The ACSM ranked Pittsburgh 23rd in a fitness index of America’s largest cities. Washington, D.C. placed first as the fittest city in the nation.
“I came here from Denver, and the culture there is shockingly different,” Lynn said. “It’s normal for people to be physically active as part of their lives. It’s far less normal here, but we want to see the culture shift.”
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.