MC becomes Exercise is Medicine® on Campus school, launches fitness month

MC becomes Exercise is Medicine® on Campus school, launches fitness month

Oct. 5, 2017

In cooler fall temperatures and against a blue October sky, Maryville College recently kicked off “Exercise is Medicine® Month” with games, prizes, a cardio hip hop class and a presidential proclamation.

But the event, held Oct. 2 in Humphreys Court, wasn’t all about a month’s worth of physical activity. The kick-off also served as announcement of – and celebration for – the College’s registration as an Exercise is Medicine® on Campus (EIMOC) school.

Maryville College is one of only three universities in Tennessee to carry the distinction.

“We’re the only small private college in Tennessee that has decided to bring this to our campus,” said Dr. Jeremy Steeves, assistant professor of exercise science. “The other [EIMOC] schools are the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.”

Steeves credits Dr. Tracy Haydu, associate professor of exercise science and chair of the Division of Education, for beginning conversations about the College’s participation in Exercise is Medicine® two years ago and attending conferences and workshops to prepare for the initiative and earn the appropriate credentials.

“This has been on her radar for a while,” he said of EIMOC at Maryville College. “And she has inspired champions for it within the Education Division and across campus.”

Initiative is global

A global health initiative backed by the American College of Sports Medicine, Exercise is Medicine® on Campus “encourages faculty, staff and students to work together to improve the health and well-being of the campus community by making movement a part of the daily campus culture, assessing physical activity at every student health visit, providing students with the tools necessary to strengthen healthy physical activity habits that can last a lifetime, and connecting university health care providers with university health fitness specialists to provide a referral system for exercise prescription,” according to the organization’s website.

At Maryville College, the EIMOC initiative is a joint venture between the College’s exercise science faculty and staff from Mountain Challenge, athletics and wellness. It is a major component to the College’s and Mountain Challenge’s new Fit. Green. Happy. initiative, which provides strong connections between the Mountain Challenge program, academic departments, courses and the College’s location.

“As a nation, we’re not as active as we should be, and that results in a lot of preventable problems,” Steeves said. “In the Southeast, we see high rates of obesity, which contributes to diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, just to name a few problems.

“The benefits of regular physical activity have indisputable positive effects on our health and our society,” he continued. “With Exercise is Medicine® on Campus, we’re trying to have physical activity institutionalized.”

Over the summer, the College’s fitness center located in Bartlett Hall was relocated and expanded to encourage more usage. Starting this semester, students are seeing a larger slate of fitness and wellness classes offered: Yoga, Bootcamp Fitness on Lloyd Beach, cardio hip hop, and Camp 4 on the grounds of Crawford House.

And now, when students visit the on-campus health clinic or training room, they are asked about their level of physical activity.

“The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity to improve health,” Steeves explained. “If students are not at that level, the health care provider will make a ‘prescription’ referral for physical activity, and we have student interns who will advise their peers on where and how to ‘fill’ that prescription.”

Steeves said the EIMOC initiative aims to have people think of physical activity as the fifth vital sign, along with body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate and blood pressure.

Initiative is funded for two years

Funding for MC’s EIMOC is provided by the Gerald W. Gibson Professional Development Fund and will be spread over two years. Named for the tenth president of the College, the fund supports projects that “either enhance the College’s existing programs of distinction or contribute to the development of revolutionary programs or procedures that further enrich the College.”

In addition to new and expanded fitness classes and an “#mcscotsmove” marketing campaign to promote the initiative, the Gibson Fund money will make possible the establishment of an EIMOC office, which will collect and maintain various data related to physical activity across campus; training for student healthcare providers; and an application to be a recognized (not just registered) EIMOC school.

“The recognition program provides an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts we are undertaking and allows other institutions to see what we are doing on our campus,” Steeves explained. “Schools can be recognized at the bronze, silver or gold level. Our goal after year one is to be recognized at the silver level.”   

Making an impact beyond MC

Maryville College’s EIMOC initiative will impact the larger community outside the MC gates, Steeves said.

Some activities already are open to the public, he pointed out. Camp 4, offered every Wednesday afternoon, is available to community members who want to climb on the Alpine Tower or in the bouldering cave, do strength training with resistance bands or keetle bells or take a yoga class. The fee is $10 for adults and $5 for youth ages 17 and under. Special activities are planned for Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 20-21, and a 5K Pumpkin Run on campus is planned for Oct. 28. Entrance fee is $15 per participant before Oct. 20.

Other outcomes of the EIMOC initiative at MC will be wide ranging and long term.

“Approximately 120 Maryville College students are enrolled in majors that are strongly tied in to the Exercise is Medicine initiative,” Steeves said. “These students, majoring in exercise science, physical education and outdoor studies and tourism will see, firsthand, how important physical activity is to a person’s health. After they graduate, that knowledge is very likely to influence – and improve – the way they help their patients, students and clients achieve optimal health.”

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Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.