6:10 p.m., Sept. 4, 2009----The University of Delaware's Student Health Service today launched a new program to encourage students to deal with obesity and stress, and engage in disease prevention. The Healthy HENS (Healthy Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep) program, developed with support from AstraZeneca, is designed to help students eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.
"When students take care of their physical health, it goes a long way toward securing their mental and emotional well-being, and the Healthy HENS program is an innovative approach that will help them meet this goal," UD President Patrick Harker said.
Michelle Ness, Healthy HENS program coordinator, said students can enroll in the program in a few easy steps. "Students simply visit the Healthy HENS Web site and take the online health risk assessment. Once complete, they can take the assessment to the Student Health Service, make an appointment for a fitness exam and develop their own fitness plan."
Students who participate will receive a gift card and those who complete their plans are eligible for prize drawings, sporting goods, dining certificates and other incentives, Ness said. The program has provided training and information to resident hall assistants and student coaches who will be available to motivate and organize group physical activities and provide peer support.
Christine Patorniti, a senior dietetics major, who served as a coach on the program last semester, said that she was driven by her interest in helping other students improve their quality of life through exercise.
"I have always had a passion for exercising, running especially, and loved the opportunity to use my passion to help others," Patorniti said. "Another great benefit I gained from being a part of the program was that it allowed me to strengthen both my team-building skills and time management abilities."
Melissa Shaw, a senior business and economics major, said she was drawn to the program by the prospect of winning a bicycle and the limited time for exercise in her busy schedule of classes and a part-time job.
"Healthy HENS was perfect for finding evening hours for my favorite exercise activity -- kickboxing," Shaw said. "I was a little nervous about exercising in front of others but I felt better knowing everyone was new to this program and we would all learn together."
"According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regular exercise is a critical part of staying healthy and people who are active live longer and feel better," Ness said. "Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and delay or prevent diabetes, some cancers and heart problems."
CDC states that that most adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days per week. Examples include walking briskly, dancing, swimming or bicycling. Stretching and weight training can also strengthen the body and improve fitness level, Ness said.
“Developing healthy habits today will have a positive impact on the students' health in the future," Dr. Joe Henry, executive director of safety, health and the environment at AstraZeneca U.S., said. "That is why AstraZeneca provides many opportunities for our employees to stay fit. Even if your habits haven't been so great in the past, early adulthood is a great time to take some steps to help you be strong and healthy through your college years and beyond.”
“An important companion to regular exercise is what we eat,” Ness said. “Whether it is the University dining halls or 'Healthy Hen' partnering businesses on Main Street, dining awards and menu suggestions in the program are based on healthy foods that will help students maintain their energy level.”
Dr. Joseph Siebold, director of UD Student Health Service, said lack of sleep is linked to a number of conditions and chronic diseases such as depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
"Teens and young adults who do not get enough sleep are at risk for problems, such as accidents, poor grades and school performance, depressed moods, and problems with friends, fellow students and adult relationships," Siebold said. “Eating well, being physically active and getting a good night's sleep is vital to your well-being. Healthy HENS is fun and inclusive way to take steps to a healthy lifestyle.”
For more information on Healthy HENS and to get started, visit the Web site.
Article by Martin A Mbugua
Photos by Evan Krape