How to help your students get healthier: Four tips for boosting wellness

Healthier Campus Initiative seeks to make healthy habits 'second nature' for students

More schools are working to boost student wellness, and some organizations—like the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA)—are offering strategies to help support those improvement efforts.

For instance, the University of Michigan's health service this week released new findings on student health, concluding that, while the school has made progress toward some of its "Healthy Campus 2020" goals, the university hasn't yet met its goals in several key areas. For example, school officials are still working to reduce binge drinking, academic impairments from stress and anxiety, and other potential risk areas.

According to PHA's new Healthier Campus Initiative, there are a number of guidelines that colleges can "mix and match" to create their own unique wellness plan, including:

  • Offer healthier food at campus dining venues;
  • Encourage student fitness through extended gym hours, fitness assessments and activity breaks;
  • Adopt a wellness curriculum for students; and
  • Provide forms of active transportation, such as bike share programs.

PHA is partnering with a number of colleges; for example, the University of California Los Angeles recently began promoting activity breaks between classes and providing healthy dining options. And to hold colleges accountable to their commitments, PHA will track the progress of the Healthier Campus Initiative on its website.

Integrating wellness programming into campus recreation services

Although colleges have been increasingly promoting healthy choices, student obesity rates have continued to climb. A 2010 National Institutes of Health study found the percentage of overweight freshman increased by more than 15% over the course of the year.

PHA CEO Lawrence Soler says promoting wellness is particularly important on college campuses because students learn habits that "will last a lifetime." By building wellness habits into campus life, healthy choices will become "second nature" to students, he says (Dilingham, Michigan Daily, 10/15; Business Officer Magazine, October 2014).

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