Col­lege en­shrines healthy liv­ing in bricks and mor­tar

Sun.Star Pampanga - - HEALTH! -

BURLING­TON, Vt. (AP) — Pledges by col­lege stu dents to es­chew drugs and al­co­hol are old hat. Now they’re med­i­tat­ing, work­ing out, prac­tic­ing yoga, eat­ing health­fully, and at least one school, the Univer­sity of Ver­mont, it has be­come a bona fide life­style.

In UVM’s Well­ness En­vi­ron­ment, known as WE, stu­dents live in a new, big sub­stance-free dorm, take a re­quired class in what af­fects the health of their brains and bod­ies, and are given in­cen­tives to stay healthy like ac­cess to a free gym mem­ber­ship, nu­tri­tion and fit­ness coaches and an app that tracks their ac­tiv­i­ties.

We cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment where we be­lieve if we of­fer young peo­ple healthy foods, healthy

choices, they’ll make them. We re­ward those things, and we don’t en­cour­age the neg­a­tive things, so the rule in the en­vi­ron­ment is no al­co­hol, no drugs, and the stu­dents fol­low it,” said Dr. Jim Hudziak, the chief of child psy­chi­a­try at the UVM’s Larner Col­lege of Medicine, who founded the Well­ness En­vi­ron­ment or WE pro­gram.

It goes be­yond the well­ness and sub­stance-free res­i­den­tial halls found at some col­leges.

It looks at them (stu­dents) as an in­di­vid­ual, which is re­ally im­por­tant ob­vi­ously for health and well­ness, but then it’s also mak­ing changes to their com­mu­nity,” said David Arnold, of the Wash­ing­ton­based NASPA, Stu­dent Af­fairs Ad­min­is­tra­tors in Higher Ed­u­ca­tion. “So com­bin­ing those two things to­gether as well as work­ing broader with fac­ulty is ac­tu­ally a very, very im­pres­sive im­ple­men­ta­tion of that pr ocess.”

At the start of a re­cent class, “Healthy Brains, Healthy Bod­ies,” the au­di­to­rium full of stu­dents stood with eyes closed for a few min­utes of meditation. Then Hudziak, who tosses a brain-shaped foot­ball to stu­dents in the au­di­to­rium be­fore class, dis­cussed neu­ro­science top­ics in­clud­ing how trau­matic or stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ences in child­hood can af­fect phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

And there’s no tol­er­ance for al­co­hol or drugs in the dorm. If you’re caught with ei­ther in the en­vi­ron­ment, you’re thrown out, Hudziak said.

“I’m a ge­netic neu­ro­sci­en­tist and child psy­chi­a­trist who wanted to end what I thought and saw was very dam­ag­ing cul­tures in univer­sity set­tings, and I thought us­ing neu­ro­science and behavior change science rather than sort of lec­tur­ing and set­ting stan­dards of behavior would work,” he said.

That makes for a qui­eter dorm, said fresh­man Cole Spauld­ing, of Waterbury, as he worked out in the dorm’s fit­ness cen­ter on a re­cent eveni ng.

You’re sit­ting at home in your dorm, and it’s not like peo­ple are yelling. You know the bath­rooms are al­ways clean. It’s a nice place to just live,” he said.

WE stu­dents pay the same rate for cam­pus hous­ing as other stu- dents.

After a re­cent evening meditation class in the dorm, Han­nah Bryant, of Brew­ster, Mas­sachusetts, said her choice to join WE al­ready has paid off.

She bases her life around liv­ing a healthy life­style and liked the chance to be sur­rounded by healthy op­por­tu­ni­ties like yoga, meditation and good food.

“Just like al­ready within the first three weeks of school has al­ready made a huge dif­fer­ence. And it’s things like this, the 30 min­utes, that can re­ally change your week around,” she said.

Through the app, stu­dents earn coins for healthy choices that can be used to buy WE para­pher­na­lia — socks, sweat shirts, hats. They’re also en­cour­aged to men­tor kids in the com­mu­nity as one of the four pil­lars on which the pro­gram is based: fit­ness, mind­ful­ness, nu­tri­tion and re­la­tion­shi ps.

Fresh­man Joy Vin­cenzo of Port­land, Con­necti­cut, said she chose the WE pro­gram be­cause in high school she would get stressed about school work.

The UVM pro­gram has helped in her first few weeks of col­lege. She does yoga and, when she has breaks be­tween classes, she might go to the gym for 20 min­utes.

“This ar­gu­ment of WE is, if we teach and prac­tice these health-pro­mot­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, when things get tough, you’ll rely on a whole new set of skills,” Hudziak said.

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