Academic Club Promotes Wellness On Campus

Encouraging people to be physically active may be the ultimate low-cost therapy for improving their health. That’s why students at UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences are encouraging health care providers to prescribe exercise as medicine, and are championing “Exercise Is Medicine On Campus.”

Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a global health initiative launched by the American Medical Association and American College of Sports Medicine to make the scientifically proven benefits of physical activity the standard for healthcare. EIM is committed to the belief that physical activity plays an integral role in the prevention, treatment and management of chronic diseases and should be considered as a vital sign of health. EIM strives to integrate physical activity into healthcare and link patients to community resources with the ultimate goal of implementing interventions that will slow, stop and reverse the progression of chronic diseases.

Universities and colleges are encouraged to engage with EIM by promoting physical activity on campus and urging assessment of physical activity at every health visit. Students in UVM’s Exercise Is Medicine Club, also known as the Exercise and Movement Science Association, actively engage with EIM through faculty advisor Connie Tompkins, Associate Professor of Exercise Science, who has conducted extensive testing and research on body composition and physiological responses to exercise.

The club frequently hosts body composition testing days, providing health assessments to fellow students, faculty and staff. Club members perform bioelectrical impedance analyses to measure body fat and muscle mass, calculate waist–to-hip ratio and body mass index and ask about participation in physical activity. Participants leave with a personal cardiovascular risk report and suggestions for improving risk through exercise. The $5 fee helps club members pay for attending sports medicine and exercise science conferences.

The next body composition testing day will take place November 1, 5:00-9:00 p.m. in Rowell Building 017.

Although students in any major may join the club, most of the members major in Exercise and Movement Science, said Emily Park, a senior EXMS major and co-leader of the club with senior EXMS major Kurtis Stoeckel.

“It’s interprofessional. We are trying to promote physical activity and its benefits on campus to everyone,” said Park.

Exercise Is Medicine recognizes campus participation by awarding bronze-, silver- or gold-level status for steps taken to increase physical activity and incorporate physical activity into health care. UVM holds silver-level ranking. To achieve gold-level, the club must show that campus health care providers consider physical activity a vital sign routinely assessed at every patient interaction. To tackle this challenge, the club might create a brochure for doctors and nurses about the importance and ease of including exercise as a vital sign.

“It only adds five seconds to their time with the patient,” said Stoeckel. “We want to link health care professionals to fitness professionals.”

Club members produced a video about EIM on the UVM campus for a 2017 Exercise Is Medicine On Campus Mascot Challenge. For this contest, they created a 90-second spot of UVM’s mascot Rally encouraging exercise on campus. If the video receives the most “Likes” on YouTube by November 3, the club will receive a $1,000 grant to be used to implement a physical activity-focused event at UVM.

Students interested in helping out or joining the club should contact


Janet Lynn Essman Franz
EXMS senior students Kurtis Stoeckel and Emily Park practice taking measurements to calculate Body Mass Index.