A big loser: ‘Exercise is Medicine’ helps SRU freshman scale down


Cisneros and Winters running the 5k race

Ignacio Cisneros Jr. ran in the Sept. 24 President’s 5K Run, accompanied by Carena Winters, assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences. Photo by Alexander Zarynow, exercise science major from Potomac, Md.

Sept. 29, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - It turns out that the biggest losers aren't only on TV. They also can be found at Slippery Rock University.

And while Ignacio Cisneros Jr. didn't have a celebrity trainer alongside him during his "battle with the bulge," what he did have was SRU's Exercise is Medicine program. That, and a sense of determination, allowed the exercise science major from Pittsburgh to turn his life, not to mention his waist size, around.

SRU's Exercise is Medicine program, launched in 2011, offers many activities, including: "Walk The Rock;" 5K runs and 2K walks; cycle aerobics; and a running club. Additionally, a personal training program matches exercise science majors with students and community residents for weekly activity sessions.

The American College of Sports Medicine, the organization that originated the global initiative, has bestowed upon SRU's program a Gold recognition which signifies the highest level of on-campus implementation, with potential for extending into the local community, of one or several components of the Exercise is Medicine.

Cisneros Jr. said his journey from 210 pounds to 160 pounds began a couple years ago while still in high school. It was during this time that not only was his mother's bout with obesity taking a toll on her health, including a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis; but also he was denied a dancing part in a school play due to weight.

He knew it was time for a change.

The mother-son duo began mall walking together and altered their diet, moving away from processed foods to more protein and vegetables. Coupled with gastric bypass surgery, Cisneros Jr. said his mother's weight dropped from 375 pounds to 170 pounds.

Cisneros Jr. removed all junk foods, including sugary soft drinks, from his diet in exchange for "protein, protein, protein."

"The refrigerator in my dorm room is stocked with protein shakes that I have for breakfast every morning before I go to the class," he said.

The self-imposed weight-loss program took Cisneros from a waist size of 38 down to 30 and saw his shirt size drop from XXL to medium over a one-year period.

Now ensconced on a campus that infuses fitness into academic, social and recreational activities, Cisneros Jr. said he runs 3.1 miles daily, never takes the elevator and participates in as many outdoor activities as possible. He stays clear of treadmills, preferring the wooded scenery that the campus provides.

Cisneros Jr. took part in the Sept. 24 President's 5K Run, accompanied by Carena Winters, assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences. He finished the race in 27:47.

"The crowd was great," Cisneros said. "It was very motivational hearing everyone cheer my name as I was running past the residence halls."

Exercise is Medicine promotes physical activity as a major component of wellness and offers "exercise prescriptions" to students who need to become more active. For instance, when students visit Student Health Services, nurses ask them about their exercise habits. If they don't meet the recommended 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise, nurses refer them to the EIM plan.

"Exercise isn't just about going to the gym every day, it's about being active," Cisneros Jr. said. "Whether you're outside jogging, riding a bike or even going to your local mall to do a couple of laps, as long as you spend at least an hour doing something other than sitting on the couch, you're one step closer to a healthier lifestyle."

Cisneros Jr. said his career goal is to become a physician assistant, so he can help others live a healthier life.

"When I was looking into SRU, I was very interested in its physician assistant program," he said. "After touring the campus and seeing the extent of their equipment and obvious health-conscious approach, I knew it was a perfect fit for me."

Winters said it is wonderful that Cisneros Jr. has been able to change his behavior and lose the pounds, since it can be a challenge to overcome "behaviors that are engrained." She's even more proud he has taken wellness one step further by taking advantage of some of the many wellness opportunities offered by the University.

"He is the epitome of utilizing exercise as medicine," Winters said, adding that people should infuse physical activity into their daily routines whenever possible.

"You really have to pencil it in like you would anything else," she said. "We tell people you wouldn't think of not taking a shower or not brushing your teeth everyday, so why not think of exercise the same way? You must schedule it, prioritize it and have a routine. If you don't set yourself up for success, you're going to set yourself up for failure."

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu