Kinesiology department starts Fit Freshmen program to encourage healthy habits

-James Osborne, News Editor

The Mississippi College Kinesiology Department is presenting a new program to encourage freshmen and the rest of the student body to take up fitness and a healthy life style. Fit Freshmen is a four time walking/jogging program on Thursday nights from 5-6 p.m. and will take place over four weeks and participants meet at the front steps of Cockroft Hall. The first two Fit Freshmen nights were Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 and the last two will be Oct. 9 and Oct.16. Kinesiology students and graduate assistants lead the groups. Each night the group that will be walking the course will be given health and fitness advice by a guest speaker and then the group breaks into smaller groups of three or four and then walk or jog the given route of the course. They also post exercise stretching, and door prizes will be given away.

This event leads up to MC’s annual race open to the community, the Coach Hap Hudson Homecoming 5K on Saturday, Oct.18, starting in front of Cockroft Hall. Participants of Fit Freshmen who go to three of the four meetings will receive free registration to the Hap Hudson 5K, a $15 value.

The first night of Fit Freshmen the guest speaker was Theo Clyatt, the fitness director at the Baptist Healthplex, and the second night Bethany Pigott, who leads MC FCA with her husband Justin, talked with the group. Thursday, Oct. 9, Ellen Noble, the aquatics director for Alumni Hall and an adjunct professor in the Kinesiology department, will be the guest speaker. The last night of the event, Oct.16, students will hear from Rob Ward, a professor in the psychology department and fitness enthusiast. Then after participants finish walking the course, they will hear from a special presentation by head football coach John Bland.

Each night the planned course through part of campus and downtown Clinton changes slightly and becomes a longer course to walk, jog, or run. The first night was a half-mile, and the second was one mile. Oct. 9 will be a one and half mile course, and Oct.16 will be a two-mile course through campus and downtown Clinton.

“Our goals are to provide educational tools for healthier lifestyles and accountability through these weekly meetings,” said Anna Bolton, a senior kinesiology and Pre-Physical Therapy major from Clinton. Bolton’s role along with other kinesiology majors participating is to be a Fit Freshmen coach and lead groups on the walk. “Our first week included a talk mainly about the role of a healthy diet in maintaining healthy body weight,” said Bolton. “Because even though activity is a crucial element, activity goes hand-in-hand with diet. Our speaker pretty much summed this up when he said, ‘You can’t outrun a bad diet.’”

The Fit Freshmen program was the idea of kinesiology professor Suzanne McDonough, who also got the Hap Hudson Homecoming 5K started. “It is targeted to freshmen but anybody can come,” said McDonough. “But that being said the talks will focus on freshmen being away from home and in college for the first time.”

McDonough makes sure the participants are safe by having people walk in groups and letting Clinton police know about the activity. She also said that she is the last person to leave for the walk and makes everyone write down their name on a sign up list for the walk and then highlight their name to make sure everyone came back with the group.

McDonough said that the “freshmen 15” is really more of an urban legend. “It’s not accurate,” she said. “Across the nation statistics show that freshmen gain four or five pounds their first semester.” She went on to say that the “freshmen fifteen” is more likely to happen in the South, but it is still an urban myth for the most part. “I think it’s ridiculous. Most people don’t gain that much weight in college. It might even promote the acceptance of weight gain since it is seen as something that is commonplace and acceptable,” said McDonough.

Patrick Conn, the executive director of the Baptist Healthplex, said that students need to take a daily and active role in avoiding the possibility of a “freshmen 15” and seek to live a healthy lifestyle. “While practicing calorie control, incorporate healthy eating patterns such as not skipping meals, choosing healthier foods in the cafeteria such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, lean sources of protein, and limiting the added sugars found in certain beverages and desserts,” said Conn. “On top of all, devise an exercise plan that you can stick with and cultivate friendships with those who share your same commitment.”

Some of McDonough’s advice to students is to limit time in front of TV and computer screens and to think of health and fitness as something to mark off of a to do list, something you have to do, not a “maybe.”

McDonough originally had the idea for Fit Freshmen two years ago, but received a call from the Clinton fire department to incorporate a program for them. So, the Fit Firemen program was created that year. Recently, McDonough was contacted by a writer from the Clarion Ledger asking if MC had a program to prevent the “freshmen 15” and McDonough was reminded of her idea two years ago. “I said, “Well, yeah, we have a plan but we have not implemented it yet…but you know what, we are going to do it.” The next day a plan for the event was put together. “Mary Ann McCarty is our work study, and she put it together, and Derek Walker who is a brilliant graphic designer came up with the logo. It all came together in a couple hours,” said McDonough.

McCarty encourages students to come to the Fit Freshmen walks and to run the Hap Hudson Homecoming 5K. “You don’t have to be an athlete,” said McCarty, “You just have to make health and fitness a habit.” McCarty also said, “Fit Freshmen is a great way to meet new people, and the faculty in the Kinesiology department are really great.”

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