KSC senior nutrition major Amber Perkins is dedicated to making campus healthier with her creation of a new program called KSC Get Fit. Perkins is an intern with the Center for Health and Wellness as a part of her practicum experience through the health science program.
Perkins said, “The practicum itself is 100 hours of supervised practice somewhere in the community. I am working with part of the community health, so the community health sector, and one of the things that we looked at at the beginning of my program is a survey.”
She continued, “The statistic that stood out to me the most is that only 52 percent of students at Keene State reported meeting the physical activity guidelines for moderate and vigorous physical activity, which seemed incredibly low and sad and scary to me. So, that was definitely the thing I wanted to tackle this semester.”
Perkins tables in the Llyod P. Young Student Center every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to promote the program. Every week, she focuses on something different, and by stopping at the table, campus community members are able to learn about a piece of physical activity.
“We’re talking about behavior change and we’re talking about how to make behavior changes related to physical activity, what you can do, how you can do it and just kind of promoting a community through the Keene State College Get Fit page on Facebook. When you join that group, you get entered to win prizes and a larger prize basket at the end of the semester, but in addition to that, you’re getting constant tips and reminders and encouragement to stay active through this last piece of the semester,” Perkins said.
Life tends to get busy, especially at the end of the semester, and Perkins said physical activity tends to be the first thing eliminated when individuals have plenty to do. She said she is trying to bring knowledge to the issue while also keeping people motivated and moving.
Perkins considers the KSC Get Fit program to be individual. “In the program, and if you decide to join the Facebook page, you’ll see that no piece of the program is just pushing people to go to the gym or do something standard. It’s being very open and accepting to numerous amounts of physical activity,” Perkins said. She also mentioned that she is pleasantly surprised at the participation she has had at the table and in the Facebook group.
Perkins is trying to stress to participants that there are many other ways to be active rather than going to the gym. Perkins thinks the program is opening the eyes of students to the fact that they’re already doing activities to stay active and things they can do to increase their activity level.
Perkins said, “I think a lot of the time when you use the word ‘physical activity’ to college students, they think of that allotted hour that they spend at the gym X amount of times a week and the students aren’t really thinking outside of the box of ways they can just get those minutes into their day without having to change their entire life style and add a gym routine to their day. Adding X amount of hours of gym time to your day is scary and, for some students, incredibly unrealistic, but it is realistic for every student at Keene State to meet these recommendations and to just get moving.”
There are many other ways students can be active, even if they don’t realize they’re being active. Perkins said, “Walking to the grocery store versus driving can add up to 20 minutes of physical activity to your day and that’s going to get you that much closer to meeting that 150 minute recommendation that we’re talking about. In addition to that, with the weather getting nicer, I’ll be encouraging things like hiking Monadnock and other things that are even closer to Keene.”
After graduation, Perkins has been accepted into a nine month dietetic internship at Edward Hines VA in Chicago, Illinois. It is the next step in her process of becoming a registered dietitian.
One member of the KSC Get Fit Facebook group, senior Marissa DePolo, said, “To stay active, I have been keeping myself accountable and going to the gym even if I may be tired.”
Perkins has been working under the KSC Coordinator of Wellness Education Tiffany Mathews.
Mathews said, “The interns work through me and work with me as well. I always have new interns every semester. Usually the students are from health science, often nutrition, but also community health. I also have health communication students, so minors in health communications and oftentimes communication majors in general, to do the social marketing piece of our programming and our initiatives. Then, so what I do is, we try to figure out what, and I let them know a little bit about, our department and our needs [are]. Then we try to figure out what are they interested in working on for their internship.”
Mathews said working with these interns and trying to get the campus healthier is important.
“I think that I really try to help people, students, staff and faculty to see the connection between health and retention. If students are taking care of themselves and all of different dimensions of wellness, they’re going to be more likely to do better in school. They will be more likely to have a stronger immune system to feel connected at a place,” Matthews said.
She continued, “I think in college, as staff and as faculty, we say that we want to help students who are just starting off and throughout their career in college, and upon graduation, we want to help them figure how they would typically engage, how to problem solve [and] how to critically think. Well, you cannot achieve that until you have all of these different levels of needs met and at the base of all of that is food, is sleep and then a little bit further up is self-care in regards to physical activity and the connection between physical activity and how that affects your emotional state and helps you manage your stress and things like that.”
Mathews also said she enjoys working with the interns. “It’s great because you have this idea, but then interns give it that student perspective and since they]re high-level health majors, they already have that academic background that it helps bring an idea to a different level, to a higher level, then crafts it in a certain way that students can from that perspective,” Mathews said.
Mathews said her department was lucky when Perkins came in for an internship because she considers her a strong student leader. When coming up with KSC Get Fit, the two collaborated on a project that would benefit Mathews’ department and benefit Perkins as well.
“I was just really excited about getting it rolling and getting it going and so I think semester after semester, it’s just going to be updating it a bit with strategies and updating some information. But the format [of KSC Get Fit] I would see really remaining the same. In the future, I’ll continue to have interns that are working with me on this and I kind of let them know what I’m thinking and they let me know what they’re thinking and we come together and try it that way,” Mathews said.
When coming up with the idea for KSC Get Fit, Perkins mentioned her and Mathews looked at survey results. Mathews elaborated on those numbers and stated, “62 percent of our students aren’t meeting the recommended three or more day a week of vigorous intensity exercise for at least 20 minutes, and then 75 percent are not meeting recommended five or more days a week of moderate intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes. Then, there’s also 55 percent of our students say they’re at a healthy weight, 26 percent say overweight, 15 percent say obese, and then four percent say overweight.”
If you’re interested in becoming healthier and more active, you can start by asking to join the KSC Get Fit Facebook page that either Perkins or Mathews can approve you for.
Emma Hamilton can be contacted at email@example.com