FIT Rx: Prescription for health, recipe for engaged learning

March 31, 2014 | Rebecca Neal Tompkins '02, Contributing Writer

FitRX0-EDit
FitRX0-EDit
FitRX0-EDit

From couch to 5k and a third place race finish—for Tammy Sightler, this was an unprecedented accomplishment made possible by health sciences majors Dana Duffett ’15 and Shannon Murphy ’15.

“Last semester, Dana and Shannon helped me get started with a structured training program that prepared me physically to complete my first 5k event,” said Sightler. “Their advice and commitment helped me reach my goal.”

Sightler, administrative assistant in the Center for Teaching and Leaning, is now a participant in FIT Rx, a new engaged learning opportunity in which junior and senior health sciences (HSC) majors work with approximately 35 faculty, staff, and spouses, to create their own individualized exercise training programs.

At its core, engaged learning encourages students to develop creative ways to put classroom theory into practice. FIT Rx fits that definition to a tee. Eleven students are participating in the internship in individualized exercise prescription (HSC 503/505), and each will complete 120 hours of field work, attend a weekly internship class, and study a textbook and research articles as part of the course.

Several events on campus brought FIT Rx to fruition. The Furman University Eating Lean (FUEL) program, which provides healthy eating strategies and comprehensive health assessments to faculty and staff, was already in existence. At the same time, Tony Caterisano, Ph.D., was teaching a course on the scientific principles of training (HSC 244) in which students implemented exercise testing and prescription with a few members of the Furman faculty and staff. Lastly, faculty and administrators discussed the rising costs of health care at Furman at the faculty retreat in August 2013.

Kelly Frazier, lecturer of health sciences and instructor of the FIT Rx program, saw a golden opportunity for the faculty, staff, and students.

“This program engages our students while making a significant impact on the lives of Furman community members,” she said. “Students work directly with individuals, experience their struggles, and celebrate their accomplishments. It's a win-win for everyone involved.”

Frazier meets with her students weekly to discuss their successes and challenges and to help them properly address each participant's health needs. Topics range from appropriate exercises for knee and back problems, to watching heart rate and blood sugar levels, and more. The goal for the individualized training is to set up an exercise plan participants can do on their own once the program is over.

Alex Cross ’14 is a health sciences major and one of the trainers in the program.

“I love this,” he said. “I love meeting new people. I love hearing from the participant ‘I feel like I’m learning, and I have control over my health.'”

Previously, Sightler participated in FUEL and trained for her 5k event through Dr. Caterizano’s HSC 244 Scientific Principles of Training. When she heard about the FIT Rx program, she definitely wanted to be part of the program.

“After running my first 5k, FIT Rx sounded like a great way to continue what I had started,” she said.

Sightler encourages any faculty or staff to sign up to participate in the program, regardless of current exercise level.

“The students design this to work for you, taking into consideration your strengths, your likes, and your limitations. Often, we give up on a workout routine because we think ‘I can’t do all of that,’ when sometimes we only need to modify the routine to keep pushing forward.”

Frazier is encouraged about the future of FIT Rx and excited to see its impact on the Furman community.

“FIT Rx brings tremendous value to our health sciences majors and to the Furman community,” she said. “We hope to make a difference in the lives of our participants, help alleviate health complications, improve employee morale, and reduce the rising cost of health care claims. The FIT Rx internship is designed to educate and inspire our students so they are able to experience first-hand how powerful healthier lifestyle choices can be. You can’t experience that by simply reading it in a textbook.”