Promoting physical activity as a vital sign of health in campus community
Helping individuals become physically active is the goal of Illinois State University’s Exercise Is Medicine On Campus (EIMOC) program, a referral-based system linking Student Health Services (SHS), Student Counseling Services (SCS), Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW), Campus Recreation (CR), and the School of Kinesiology and Recreation (KNR).
“The program, which began in 2014, has received national recognition at the Gold Level from the American College of Sports Medicine for three years in a row!” said Professor Kristen Lagally, an EIMOC team member. “And to date, 83 students have been referred to the program, with an average of 20 new referrals per semester!”
Any Illinois State University student is eligible to participate in the program if they receive a referral from an appropriate health care provider, such as student health and counseling services. The goal is to ensure that campus resources provide everyone with an opportunity to become physically active. Students who are sedentary may be referred to CR, however, those with more significant barriers to physical activity may be referred to KNR’s EIMOC program. Kinesiology students and faculty have the expertise, certifications, and facilities to work with all types of clients, therefore, the kinesiology branch of EIMOC has received referrals for transgender individuals and those suffering from eating disorders, social anxiety, body image issues, depression, and obesity.
Clients typically spend the eight weeks in the program attending two exercise sessions per week, or Phase 1. During this phase, they become familiar with exercise equipment, exercise routines, and explore different physical activity modalities. At the six-week mark, client barriers, motivators, and goals are reassessed and evaluated for readiness to transition to Phase 2, which involves working with a personal trainer associated with CR who offers free personal training for EIMOC clients. Ideally, clients will be ready to make this transition at the eight-week mark, however, there is flexibility based on individual client needs and situations.
Additionally, a KNR EIMOC registered student organization facilitates fun outreach events around campus to engage the campus community in physical activity. One example is the “pill bottle” activity, where participants take their daily dose of exercise prescription in the form of exercises written on a prescription pad inside of a pill bottle. During EIMOC month in October, there are “Free Fitness Fridays,” where campus community members can participate in fitness testing and physical activity clinics in the exercise physiology lab. HPW and CR also help ensure that EIMOC clients, as well as the rest of the campus community, are aware of and have access to all the exercise programming offered by the EIMOC stakeholders. Exercise science interns maintain EIMOC social media outlets on Facebook and Instagram to promote physical activity in the campus community. Lagally hopes that similar programs will be developed on other university campuses using Illinois State’s program as a blueprint.