SUNY Cortland will toast “Wellness Day: 150 Years of Healthy Red Dragons” on Wednesday, Sept. 26, with free historical displays, health-related activities and prizes in the Student Life Center lobby.
From noon to 3 p.m. that day, students can help advance the campus community toward an ultimate wellness milestone while reflecting on a timeline created to mark the many related accomplishments College has achieved since its founding in 1868.
The inaugural event takes place during Healthy Campus Week, celebrated this year from Sept. 24-28 by the national organization Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA).
This year, the Washington, D.C.-based PHA launched its fourth annual Healthy Campus Week as part of its Healthier Campus Initiative (HCI), a national effort to ensure college students have access to healthier environments during a time of profound change in their lives — a time when new habits are formed.
Research shows that overweight and obesity rates increase by more than 15 percent for first-year college students. According to a study published in 2014 in the journal Preventive Medicine, 95 percent fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and more than 60 percent report not getting enough physical activity.
SUNY Cortland is bucking the trend. An average of 2,000 people, approximately one-third of the student body, use the Student Life Center every day to lift weights, run on the elevated track, play basketball or engage in activities such as yoga and meditation, group exercise classes, swimming or another fitness or recreational activity. Julian Wright, the College’s director of recreational sports, estimates that the one millionth user will enter the three-year-old Student Life Center by the early part of fall semester. Approximately 500,000 additional people have toured the facility since it opened.
During SUNY Cortland’s event, students, faculty and staff can walk around with a cardstock booklet “passport” to stations where they can check off health-related actions they have just completed such as having their overall calorie needs assessed, sampling healthy snacks, getting their blood pressure taken, performing an exercise test, checking their resting heart rate and undergoing a stress test. At one station, the participants might have their daily caloric needs calculated by College nutritionist Andrea Hart, for example. Interns with the College’s Health Promotion Office will staff some stations.
“We’re asking students to assess their wellness currently so they can compare their own health-related specific information in the future,” said the College’s health educator, Lauren Scagnelli ’12, M '14.
“We have marked Healthy Campus Week for the last two years but we haven’t promoted it this way,” Scagnelli said. “In the past two years, we asked students to take pictures of themselves eating a healthy meal, using a stress ball, etc., and posted them on Twitter using the hashtags #HealthyCampus and #RedDragonStrong.”
This year, participants who visit all six information stations will receive a free water bottle both as a prize and a reminder to always stay hydrated when exercising.
Additionally, those who complete even one station are entered into a drawing to win a session of Bod Pod body composition analysis, valued at $20, or a one-hour massage. A 50 minute, sport or relaxation massage costs $50 for students and $60 for faculty. Individuals who fill out the whole “passport” are entered in the competition six times over.
“We want to encourage any participation, so we offer everyone at least one chance to win,” said Scagnelli, who served on a committee to organize the day’s events. Committee members include Theresa Baker, CAN’T FIND HER IN DIRECTORY; John Cottone, dean of professionals studies; Hart; Bonni Hodges, Health Department professor and chair; Eve Mascoli, assistant director of recreation sports for facilities and aquatics; Fred Pierce, the College communications director; and Deborah Van Langen, associate professor of kinesiology. Van Langen and her students also will assist during the event.
Another table at the healthy campus event will feature a timeline of health-related milestones in SUNY Cortland history over the course of 150 years, created by Health Promotion interns.
Hodges and students enrolled in her classes will staff a separate table that will feature highlights of the Health Department’s history.
The timeline will note, for example, that in 2013 the College campus became tobacco-free.
Another big milestone in nutrition, physical activity and programming appears to be coming up, according to Scagnelli.
SUNY Cortland has completed 19 of the 23 requirements in nutrition, exercise or programming to be officially named one of the nation’s healthiest colleges through the PHA’s Healthier America’s Healthier Campus Initiatives. The College was given three years to reach the goal, until 2019. PHA developed these guidelines in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts.
This initiative was first introduced by SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum, Scagnelli said.
“The year 2016 was our first year and we are pretty confident we are within reach of having all 23 areas identified,” she said. “Looking into the future, we hope to mark in 2019 that we’ve achieved the PHA’s Healthier Campus Initiative.”
To date, more than 50 colleges and universities across 29 states and the District of Columbia are participating in the Healthy Campus Initiative, impacting more than 1.3 million students, faculty and staff. The partnership also works to encourage for-profit businesses to produce healthier products.
The event also occurs on “Wellness Wednesday,” the week day that SUNY Cortland campus traditionally sets aside all semester long to offer a different well-being initiative, for example, mental health outreach.
“Knowing that health is related to all different aspect of wellness, we make sure that that last aspect is included, too,” Scagnelli said. The College has long conducted an annual Body Appreciation Week to encourage another major area of wellness.