Anyone walking through the Madison County Community Health Center (MCCHC) on Thursday, Jan. 19, could hear the upbeat Latin American music, the stomping of feet, and the shrills of laughter as eight MCCHC employees worked their way through Zumba and core-strengthening exercises. It was the first of a six-week workshop MCCHC and AU are putting on to promote employee wellness.
The idea for the Wellness Challenge began with Anthony Malone, CEO of MCCHC, a health center for the uninsured in Madison County. He read an article mentioning that Rebecca Hull, chair of the Department of Kinesiology, is currently the president of the Midwest District of the Indiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. This professional association gives grants to schools who initiate community programs, so Malone contacted Hull and they began brainstorming program ideas. “Mr. Malone wanted to create an environment of wellness and jump start his employees into regular physical activity,” said Hull. “He thought that if his staff modeled wellness, some of the clients might also be inclined to do the same.”
Not everyone who applies for this grant receives it. “It’s a competitive grant, so there are usually less than five schools that get it in a year,” said Hull. “It’s also a matching grant, so the hope is that whoever gets this grant will find another group who matches it dollar for dollar. The grant maxes out at $2,000 so that’s what we received, and MCCHC had to match the $2,000.”
Hull enlisted the help of AU Wellness Program Director Connie Hippensteel for the project. “I quickly realized this was something that would be a great opportunity for our students and Connie oversees our students in teaching group exercise, so bringing her in to ask her opinions on ideas has been very beneficial,” said Hull. Hippensteel was eager to work on the program because of the benefit for students. “I was interested because I teach in the exercise science department and we’re always looking for internships for our students and this would be a good possibility. And I’m looking for places for students to get an opportunity to teach group exercise,” said Hippensteel. “We are starting the program, but we really want to get the AU students involved.”
Hull and Hippensteel began writing the grant proposal in March 2011 and submitted it in May. They got final notification that they had received the grant in November and quickly put the program together so they could start in January 2012.
The program they designed is a free six-week series for MCCHC employees that educates and demonstrates wellness. On Mondays, the focus of the session is education, which covers a different topic every week. “The six weeks will cover the benefits of wellness, the basics of strength training, healthy backs, healthy eating, sensible weight loss, and stress reduction,” said Hull.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the sessions’ focus is physical exercise, which includes a range of cardio and strength training exercises. For the first half hour, participants do a cardio workout, such as Zumba, and for the second half hour they do muscle exercises. Each time, a different set of muscles will be targeted, including arms, abs, and legs.
Hull and Hippensteel teach the education sessions while AU students lead the workouts. Senior fine arts studio major Tiernae Salley and senior psychology major Courtney Redman lead the Zumba workout while junior exercise science major Ashley Kern will lead the core-strengthening exercises.
So far, 13 of MCCHC’s 50 employees have registered for the program. “We were hoping for one-third to one-half of their employees,” said Hull. “We hope that we’ll have a different group of 13 to 15 people for our second six-week session. If we get 30 out of 50 of their staff, that’s over 50 percent and that would be above the averages we would expect.”
According to statistics included in their grant, Indiana has nearly 3.7 million overweight or obese adults and Madison County has one of the highest rates of obesity in the state. “Madison County is ranked one of the lowest in health indicators in the state of Indiana. There’s a high amount of smokers,” said Hippensteel. Hull added, “Madison County is ranked 75 out of 92 in health outcomes and 84 out of 92 in health factors. So we proposed this program to see if we could make a difference.”
For those eight people who braved the snow and ice on Jan. 19, this program certainly is making a difference. “We introduced pedometers to the group and the challenge was to see if you could get a mile of activity in our time frame. And most of them did,” said Hull. “It was like they were electrified when they put those pedometers on. They just started moving and they didn’t stop! Even when the session ended, one lady just kept walking and walking. I said, ‘It’s okay if you stop now because our session for the evening is over.’ And she said, ‘Oh no! I have to get to 2,000 steps at least!’ So she stayed until she got them done. It was a fun, pleasant, inviting, exercise session.”
--Alyssa Applegate is a senior from Dayton, Ohio, majoring in communication arts and minoring in Spanish. Applegate is an associate with Fifth Street CommunicationsTM, writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.