Fitness: Are We Encouraging or Shaming?

by Kristen Abell

In student affairs it seems that this year has been one of focusing on health and wellness (at least in the online world of student affairs). We’ve seen the rise of the #safit hashtag, the Student Affairs Runners group on Facebook, and at a recent regional conference, our participation in the fun run/walk jumped from four last year to over 70 this year. With student affairs being a notoriously unhealthy field – especially in terms of balance – this seems like a welcome change.

And yet.

From the beginning, there has been something about the whole focus on fitness that has bothered me, and it took me awhile to put my finger on it – and even longer to write about it. It feels like when we talk about health and wellness, all we are talking about is physical health and wellness – and for many, what we are also talking about is size. Pictures and stories abound of weight loss, fitting into clothes, being the smallest we’ve been. To me it feels as though some have turned the focus from health to size, and those folks have turned from being supportive of all sizes to being supportive only of those who are making an effort to be a smaller size. I don’t believe anybody has done this intentionally, but it stings, nonetheless. For a field that is supposed to be supportive of all shapes and sizes, we’re acquiring a tendency to shame those of larger sizes because they’re not doing anything about it.

Perhaps part of this is my frustration with my own health issues. I’ve been fighting to breathe easy for so long that physical fitness still sometimes feels like a bit of a luxury to me. So to be told I need to be focusing on running harder or lifting more or losing weight just feels like a small part of the bigger health picture, and it feels out of focus.

And when we keep the focus on physical health, we have lost a large part of that picture. I know I’m sensitive to this because of my own struggles, but it is just as important to me – if not more so – that my mental health is good. And this can take more than just seeking balance. Sometimes it requires doctors, and therapy, and medication. Sometimes it requires that our physical health isn’t just fit, but that we are actually healthy – that we aren’t suffering from other types of illnesses. If we only focus on physical fitness, we’re excluding those who are fighting for even a baseline of health – physical or mental.

This has been a hard post to write – not least because I have several friends who I feel have benefited from the #safit movement. And I want to be clear that I don’t think it’s a bad movement at all. I myself love the encouragement that I get when I post a workout or something positive about my journey to better health. I’ve had several people who also have voiced how much they have been encouraged both from my posts and from this movement. I just think we have to be careful about crossing the border between what is good about this movement toward fitness to becoming more exclusive than encouraging. It’s a fine line, but it’s one that we should be particularly cognizant of as student affairs professionals.

What are your thoughts about the movement toward health and wellness in student affairs?

Fitness: Are We Encouraging or Shaming?

Linkage Love: Health and Fitness edition!

by Julia Golden

Last year I told myself I wanted to make a life change. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted to be more active. Quite often in higher education (especially Residence Life and Student Activities) we are working long hours, eating a slice of leftover pizza from a student meeting, or eating dining food.  While staying healthy can be quite the challenge the following link have helped me to stay focused:

 

My Fitness Pal:

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/welcome/learn_more

My Fitness Pal has been an awesome website and app for my iphone. This website has the information on calories for many food and brands of food. The app lets you track this information down. I have found that when I’m at my office I go onto this website or ones like it to pre-plan what I would like to eat for dinner. Viewing this site also let’s me pre-plan eating out at a restaurant. For instance when I glance at a menu what are items with fewer calories? My Fitness Pal has many restaurant’s food item on their site.

 

Spark People

http://www.sparkpeople.com/

I enjoy Spark People and the community it provides. There are many blogs and success stories that inspire me to do my best. Connecting with an ‘Average Joe’ on exercising is uplifting. They have many tools that help you track your weight/calories etc. There are apps for smartphones as well. Again, this site is best for people who are looking for a community.

 

Fit Sugar:

http://www.fitsugar.com/

I noticed this website when I was thinking of what songs to buy for my workout mix. They have lists of the top workout music from the past few years. What also made them stand out is their sections on snacks for vegan, gluten-free folks. While I am neither, my students are and this gave me options about what snacks might be appropriate to bring to a training. Lastly, I enjoy their free videos to view on new workouts.

 

To Hope and Health,

Julia

Linkage Love: Health and Fitness edition!

Highlight an App: Fitness

By Brenda Bethman

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I would much rather read a book than run or play a sport — and that I love to eat (really, truly love it). Combine that with a (mostly) sedentary job, a husband who is an excellent cook, and the inevitable slowing metabolism that comes with hitting middle age — and well, I could stand to get some more exercise (because I weighed the options and decided that eating nothing but salads or giving up wine were both unacceptable — so moving more it is).

Oh, and I should apologize for the lateness of this post — I was working on a new website yesterday and completely forgot about posting. So, here we are today. Now, where was I? Right, looking an apps — or really a gadget. Yes, I finally broke down and bought a Fitbit, under the assumption that a true geek girl would find data motivating. I’ve had it for a couple of days, but so far that is correct.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Fitbit, is a small wireless tracker that you wear and that tracks the number of steps taken, flights of stairs (or the equivalent when walking/running hills), calories burned, and miles traveled. Combined with the website, the Fitbit apps (or other apps such as MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, Nike+, etc.), you can also track calories consumed, water drunk, and workout activity. I am less interested in the calorie counting aspect as I find nothing more dull than tracking one’s food. Nothing. But the activity tracking has been an eye-opener — I knew that I spent a lot of time being inactive (especially in the summer), but it was shocking to see just how inactive (especially if it really is true that sitting a lot really is super bad for you). So, I’ve turned to technology to help me stop sitting so often (ironic, no?) — first, with the Fitbit, as seeing the numbers and charts is, as I noted, really very sobering. Also, with another app, BreakTime, that I’ve installed on my office computer and laptop. BreakTime can be set to automatically force your computer into an inactive state for a set amount of time at set intervals (currently, I do 5 minutes every 55 minutes). It’s configured so that I can’t stop it and I can’t quit the break early. So, once a hour, I can’t use my computer, which is my signal to get up and go take a quick walk outside or around the building. I am hopeful that I will be able to keep this up once classes start up again in a bit.

The other cool thing about the Fitbit (and the reason I chose it over other gadgets) is that it will also track sleep activity. Here’s mine from last night:

This is the kind of data my geeky heart just loves. And I’m hoping that it will also be useful should my not-so-great semesterly sleeping patterns reemerge with the start of classes.

So far, I’m pleased with the Fitbit and its associated apps — and hopeful that it will help me keep moving more even with the craziness of the semester. What about you? What apps do you use to try to work fitness into your busy day? Tell us in the comments. And here’s hoping that your openings / first day of classes/ beginnings of the semester go well!

 

Highlight an App: Fitness