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Around the holidays, Shea Stevens '09, assistant director of housing, was throwing his back out on a weekly basis. Teased by family members for having put on about 30 pounds since taking a desk job, he just didn't feel healthy. He had been trying to work out with friends, but no regimen was sticking. The 24-year-old was frustrated until he met with a fitness trainer at the Schumo Center for Fitness and Well-Being and joined the center's Spring Weight Loss Challenge.
This spring, Stevens and 112 other staff, faculty, administrators, students and community members challenged each other and themselves to get healthy, exercise, eat right and lose weight. After just six weeks of the eight-week challenge, as The Reporter went to press, participants were down a total of 231.5 pounds and still dropping.
"There is nothing easy about this, but you can do it and you will be happy you did," encouraged Alison Camlin, director of the Schumo Center, in an e-mail to campus. The campus cheerleader when it comes to fitness, she went on to say, "We have 2 ½
Providing wellness resources to students, faculty and staff that focus on the seven spokes of the wellness wheel – physical, mental, spiritual, career, social, family and financial – is a priority for Albright. Through the collaborative work of the Schumo Center, Gable Health and Counseling Center, Human Resources, the Chaplain's office, Food Services and others, many in the Albright community are learning to embrace a more balanced lifestyle.
Out of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, Berks County was ranked 15th in health outcomes, which include mortality and morbidity, and 20th for health factors such as smoking and obesity. These numbers are slightly improved from the previous year, in which Berks ranked 16th for health outcomes and 23rd for health factors. The 2010 study was conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Regardless of the improved results, Camlin says,"Our society has become so much more fast-paced, and it's showing in our health. Berks County has a heavier population than many places, so culturally it's more accepted to be overweight."
"We know that healthy students, faculty and staff lead to a healthier Albright," said President Lex McMillan, who frequently takes brisk walks around campus with his half Yorkie, half Bichon- Frise dog, Corby. "Healthy students achieve more academically, healthy faculty have greater focus, healthy staff have increased productivity, and illnesses are reduced across the campus community. A healthy Albright family means a healthy Albright College."
The Schumo Center addresses several of the wellness wheel components with facilities and services that range from the fitness center, pool and exercise classes to massage, yoga and "Healthy Happy Hours" that offer nutritious snacks, beverages, chair massages and information about good nutrition. Also in the Schumo Center is Peg's Café, a snack bar offering made-to-order pizzas with whole-grain crust and low-fat cheese, fresh salads with low-fat dressings, whole-wheat wraps with low-sodium meats, protein bars, and fruit smoothies (Recovery Shakes) made with 100 percent fruit and no added sugars.
While she stays fit by playing softball, Brandy Lagomarsino '13, an art education major from Sellersville, Pa., says, "Going to the gym helps me with my stress and allows me to be more focused." Fellow softball player Rebecca Crandall '12, a biology/pre-dentistry major from Mohnton, Pa., agrees, "Staying in shape helps keep the body moving, happy and awake," she says. "It helps to keep the body as well as the mind ready to work at all times of the day."
Brian Buerke, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of physics, finds it inspiring to drive or walk by the windows in the Schumo Center and see people working out. And he knows the benefits of losing weight and getting healthy firsthand. Buerke, who lost 40 pounds during the fall 2010 semester by eating right, drinking a lot of water and speed walking, says not only has his energy increased but "mentally, I'm more focused. I just feel more motivated to get things done and I'm less likely to get distracted." Buerke is hoping to shed another five to 10 pounds in the Schumo Center's Spring Weight Loss Challenge. Group fitness classes are offered throughout the day at the Schumo Center from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Classes such as Cardio Kickboxing, Zumba, Fit @50, AquaFit and Tai Chi offer opportunities for all fitness levels.
Nancy Moyer, assistant to the vice president for advancement, has worked at Albright for nearly 11 years. Just recently she started taking an X-biking class, an indoor mountain biking experience, two to three times a week. "I've been told that you can burn 500 calories in a 30-minute [X-biking] session! I'm not sure why it took me this many years to take advantage of the [Schumo] facilities, but I'm very happy that I did."
It's not surprising that physical health has a bearing on the other six spokes of the wellness wheel, and that physical health and emotional health go hand in hand. When he's done bench pressing 405 pounds, offensive lineman Jacob Bentsen '13 takes an hourlong yoga class at the Schumo Center. Physically, yoga has increased Bentsen's flexibility and improved his speed and agility on the football field. More importantly, Bentsen says of the benefits, "Yoga class is a time when I can escape the hectic life of a college student. It leaves you feeling rejuvenated and clear-minded."
According to everydayhealth.com, being emotionally healthy involves maintaining control of one's thoughts and feelings. It means being resilient in the face of challenges, finding ways to express creativity, and understanding the importance of social connections. People who are emotionally healthy also recognize the power of spirituality and the value of staying positive.
"Stress can lead to physical problems such as migraines, stomach issues, high blood pressure and anxiety attacks, and people can even end up in the hospital," says Tim Steinrock, director of human resources.
The Gable Health and Counseling Center, directed by Samantha Wesner, CRNP, RNC, assistant dean of students, provides services such as smoking cessation, nutrition consultation and weight management, counseling services, and an annual Wellness Fair in September featuring vendors and opportunities that tie in to each component of the wellness wheel. "Our goal is for everyone to really embrace some form of wellness," says Wesner.
For some, learning to embrace emotional well-being is an important step. The Albright Counseling Center "helps keep people in balance," says Wesner. It's a place where students can address concerns that may be interfering with their personal growth, development or academic potential, including, but not limited to, adjusting to college life, stress and time management, anxiety, depression, family and relationship problems, crisis intervention and addiction. The chaplain's office also provides student counseling on personal and religious concerns.
Faculty and staff have the benefit of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through Diakon Inroads.
While just 10 percent of Albright faculty and staff have used this free benefit, those who have used it value it greatly, says Steinrock. Heidi Derstler, senior graphic designer in the College Relations and Marketing office, says the EAP not only helped her with a challenge she faced at work, it also changed her entire outlook on life. "I was coming out of a bad place. I felt stuck in a never-ending cycle and had to get unstuck, but I didn't know how," she says. "I didn't realize the problem I was having was because of me. I learned so much about myself."
The Human Resources office also provides a "Lunch and Learn" series for faculty and staff. These hour-long sessions over the lunch break focus mostly on the financial and family spokes of the wellness wheel. Topics include stress management, retirement planning, saving and budgeting, long-term care planning, time management and work-life balance.
"We want our faculty and staff to be healthier for themselves and for their families. As a result, they're more productive at work, have more energy, and miss less days for illness," Steinrock says. He added that the wellness of faculty and staff also has a long-term effect on medical claims and insurance premiums. "From an employer's perspective, it makes sense to promote healthy lifestyles. People who feel better, work better," he says.
This spring, when the Schumo Center offered its Weight Loss Challenge, Mike Miller, catering coordinator for food services, thought, "Finally, now I can get off my duff and really work out," even though he says he "hates cardio, running, or anything like that." Because he has exercise-induced asthma, for Miller working out always meant using an inhaler. Nonetheless, he decided to give it a try, weigh in and get a body-fat check. His goal: to change his life habits, not just lose weight.
With the help of a fitness trainer at Schumo, and after several weeks of working out and eating right, Miller says,"I felt better. I could feel small changes in my body and, more importantly, I'm not using my inhaler before every workout." As Miller began to see pounds coming off he set another goal: to get off blood pressure medication.
"If people do just one thing to improve their health and make it realistic, the more you do it, it becomes a habit," says Wesner.
With two weeks left in the Weight Loss Challenge, Shea Stevens '09 is down eight pounds. His muscle strength and flexibility have improved and he says he has not been plagued with illness like he usually is when the seasons change. Stevens, like other healthy Albrightians, continues to lose and continues to win.
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