Iowa City, UI promote healthy lifestyles with free classes, incentives


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Moving muscles can be a drag when subzero temperatures tend to put people into hibernation, said UI sophomore Brittany Hesse.

"I definitely think it's harder with the harsh winter conditions on campus," she said, noting that she works out despite the freezing weather.

The state's Live Healthy Iowa 100 Day Wellness Challenge — which began today — can help drive people out of seasonal lethargy.

Live Healthy Iowa, founded in 2001, tries to take the biggest roadblock to exercising — lack of motivation — by grouping participants in teams to support each other's excursive routines. But the $20 cost per person has motivated some students and residents to support the free Healthiest State Initiative.

"It's been kind of a challenge to incorporate [Live Healthy Iowa] on campus," said UI Health Iowa coordinator Tanya Villhauer.

Several Iowa City businesses are helping these fitness followers by holding free classes. The Washington Street Wellness Center, 505 E. Washington St., and Hy-Vee, 1720 Waterfront Drive, are hosting local nutritional and natural medicine expert Jason Bradley the third Tuesday of every month.

A 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked Iowa as the 19th healthiest state, a downgrade from its previous rank of seventh in 2009. Gov. Terry Branstad introduced the Healthiest State Initiative last summer.

"Our goal is to get Iowa to the number one spot by 2016," he said in a press release. "It's an ambitious goal to jump 18 positions in five years, but if anyone can do it, Iowans can."

But Bradley said he believes Iowans' lifestyles are actually worse than the report indicates.

"From my assessment with my patients that I see, we're not at 19," Bradley said. "We're worse than that. The state rankings have a lot do with body-mass index, and I don't put a lot of credence into that."

The UI has joined the state's efforts as well, with plans to launch its annual Passport: Round Trip to Health 10-week wellness program Feb. 6. The free online course, which has been around for about four years, offers students exercise and nutrition tips as well as prize incentives, Villhauer said.

"It has students track their physical activity, and we provide them with resources," she said. "We wanted to develop some kind of incentive because of this time of the year."

About 900 students participated in the course last year, said Heidi Bohall, a UI Student Health official.

Kim Jamriska, a Recreational Services coordinator, told The Daily Iowan daily attendance at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center was between 5,000 and 6,000 last year.

And although Bradley believes it's manageable for Iowa to become the healthiest state in four years, Bradley said Iowans still have a lot of work to do.

"We, Hy-Vee, and the state have a job to educate the public," he said. "It's going to take a lot of effort on a lot of people's parts. If we're going to make this work in four years it's got to be a largely concerted effort."

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