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On Campus

Three Wellness Programs Available Through November

By Mike Unger

David Fletcher felt he was a little too skinny. We should all have such problems.

“When I first did the walking program two years ago I dropped 20 pounds,” said Fletcher, 49, a career advisor in American University’s Career Center. “My physician even noticed and commented that at my age he didn’t see many patients who were doing positive things with their health. I’ve been able to keep most of it off.”

Fletcher credits his participation in AhealthyAU, the university’s wellness program, with awakening him from an exercise malaise. With three new programs coming up this month and next, there’s ample opportunity for all to improve both their physical and mental well being.

  • Personal Wellness Profile: The confidential questionnaire allows users to measure their health and provides them with customized, concrete action steps to a healthier life. Everyone who completes a profile  between October 27 and November 30 will receive either $50 in EagleBucks or $50 toward a Jacobs Fitness Center Membership.
  • KNOW Your Numbers Health Screening: A confidential health screening, allows participants to discuss their health profile with an independent health counselor. Three health screening participants will be chosen at random to win their choice of an iPad, spa package, or a healthy dinner and cooking class with a personal chef.
  • KNOW Your Finances — Financial Wellness Education: Register for one of four financial education programs on November 4 from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

AhealthyAU is designed to help faculty and staff and curtail skyrocketing health care costs.

AU’s medical plan costs have nearly tripled in the last decade and could triple again in the next 10 years, said Beth Muha, assistant vice president of human resources.

The university’s health plan costs were approximately $5 million in 2001 and are expected to be nearly $16 million next year. They could increase to $40 million by 2020. While AU pays about 72 percent of the medical plan costs, faculty and staff still pay 28 percent in the form of premiums plus any deductibles and copayments.

That’s why AU has encouraged staff like Fletcher to begin getting fit at work. He now snacks at his desk instead of going out to lunch. Noontime is spent walking or taking a yoga class offered Tuesdays in the East Quad building.

“It’s been wonderful that the university has made these things available,” he said. “In the time it would take to walk and go get lunch somewhere I go suit up for yoga and sweat for 45 minutes with Amy Farr.”

Farr is the health promotion manager in the Office of Human Resources. She said the university tries to provide activities for people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. Programs like Walktober and the pedometer challenge, during which walkers record their steps, are easy ways for people to begin moving.

“They provide motivation,” said psychology professor Michele Carter, who did a pedometer challenge in his department. “We end up competing with each other and driving each other on.”

The challenge attracts people who don’t regularly exercise, Farr said. By the end, a majority meet the surgeon general’s recommendation for physical activity.

“The Couch-to-5k is a smaller group,” she said of another program. “Thirty are participating. We have people who are relatively inactive running a full 5k after nine weeks.”

Farr hopes the health screening attracts as many faculty and staff as possible.

“We know that a lot of the leading causes of death, such as heart disease and stroke, can be influenced by our lifestyle,” she said. “The numbers like blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose are early indicators. What’s so important about those particular numbers is there are no signs or symptoms. If those things go undetected for any length of time you’re just increasing your risk for disease.”