Students should take advantage of free service to help health


I am all about using free resources. Free is good. Free is especially good when local gyms charge excessive amounts of money to help people get fit. Lucky for students at Colorado State University-Pueblo, free help is available.

Dr. Carol Faust, health promotion and wellness advisor, and Lisa Martin, the student recreation fitness coordinator had a vision to help the students, staff and faculty at CSU-Pueblo by providing health assessments and helping create an exercise program.  It is a two step process: get the health assessment then sit down with Lisa to determine the exercise goals and develop a plan.

I met with Shanae Gutierrec, a senior majoring in exercise health promotion, who greeted me with a smile and a hand shake. She was not what I imagined when I thought of a “health promoter,” but sometimes the best teachers are those who have first-hand experience.

Shanae said she changed majors last year due to her own health issues.  At 33 years old she was considered obese and decided to help herself while helping others.

“The people who see me feel more comfortable,” Shanae said of her weight. She said she feels many non-traditional students identify with her.

After we introduced ourselves she took my blood pressure, which was slightly higher than normal but still within normal ranges. According to the sheet Shanae gave me, some experts state the standard for normal should be 117 over 75 because damage to the arteries begins to increase after this point.

Then it was time for the weigh-in. Shanae took my height and weight and figured out my body mass index with a basic calculation. It should be noted that this calculation “is a reliable indicator of body fatness for individuals who have an average build and do not have an athletic build,” according to the information sheet.

The calculation is simple: weight in pounds divided by height in inches all divided by height in inches multiplied by 703. (weight/ height)/ (height x 703)

Men with BMI between 28 and 31 are considered overweight as are women between 27 and 32.

For those who have a higher BMI than recommended, the volunteers provide an informational flyer for those who may be at risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Shanae explained many people who are obese are at risk of developing diabetes.

She then took me to the back room for measurements. The windows to the front office are covered to provide privacy for those who are self conscious. She measured my waist, hips, right and left biceps, and right and left thighs.

The measurements are used to monitor progress with increases or decreases in size, depending on the goals of the clients, however waist measurements are also used to determine if someone is “apple shaped.” These people are at high risk regardless of their BMI, Shanae said. Greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women are considered at higher risk.

Last it’s time for the step test. I recommend wearing some sort of athletic shoes and loose fitting clothes, at minimum. The steps are about a foot off the ground, and for two minutes I had to march up and down them in cadence.

Oh how my drill sergeant would cringe if he saw me fumble up and down, trying to keep rhythm with the high pitched chirp of the electric metronome. I wasn’t out of breath, but I could tell my heart was beating faster.

When the time was over Shanae took my pulse. I was only “average” which, for a woman is between 109 and 126 beats per minute and for men is between 100 and 116 beats per minute. My new goal is to have my heart rate between 85 and 108 which is considered good.

As we ended, Shanae gave me my information sheet, with all my measurements. She emphasized that it was my responsibility to keep track of the information, as they do not keep records. She also gave me a questionnaire to determine my overall health.

The next step is to make an appointment with Martin to develop my personal fitness plan.

The entire health assessment only takes about 20 minutes which fits easily into many schedules, though it is not available at all times. Schedules are posted based on the number of hours volunteers sign up to work at the recreation center.

Dr. Faust said she has a vision for the whole program, but it is only in the beginning phases.  At this time, all services are voluntary therefore there is no incentive for the students to stay.

She said she is sorry for the inconveniences, but she had to decide between starting the program and at least helping some people now or waiting until it is fully established. She said she opted to help as many people as she could as soon as possible.

In the mean time, Dr. Faust said she is working on establishing a more permanent schedule with guaranteed help available. At this time she is not sure how it will be accomplished.  She said she hopes the program will be fully functional in the fall ’09 semester.

In the nine days the health assessment clinic has taken names, there have been 42 clients, according to the sign-in sheet. James “Dean” Baird, a facility supervisor at the Student Recreation Center, said he has had to turn away an average of three people a day because the volunteers are not there.

This is a great service and a great opportunity for everyone at CSU-Pueblo. The university needs to recognize the benefits to the campus community.

Whether it becomes a paid position, perhaps for Martin, or credit hours to the students it would be foolish to ignore the benefits of supporting this program.