When Donna D’Souza and Mark von Allmen attended a conference conducted by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology last October, they didn’t even know each others’ names.
But the two McMaster students quickly connected through email after they both expressed interest in starting a chapter of Exercise is Medicine on Campus at the university. Von Allmen, a Master’s student in Kinesiology, and D’Souza, a third-year PhD candidate in Medical Sciences, soon welcomed Lindsay Griffith, a second-year medical student at Queens, into the fray.
Exercise is Medicine on Campus is a post-secondary offshoot of a global initiative that believes in the virtues of using physical activity and exercise to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
The group at McMaster grew out of the conversations that the three students had at the end of October, with their first executive council meeting taking place in February where they welcomed eleven other graduate students.
Recent interest from other students has seen them add around 50 members to their general council. Their most immediate goals are to begin promoting a healthy lifestyle amongst the McMaster community, as well as collaborating with McMaster physicians to get exercise as treatment off the ground.
D’Souza emphasized how their experience in different backgrounds has been beneficial to their progress, with it helping to convert the theoretical knowledge they have at their disposal to render it fit for practical application.
As the end of the school year draws near, von Allmen said they had hopes of completing a prescription pad that they’d like to see used by all health services on campus.
“It’d be something that we’d have to help teach medical professionals how to use exercise in a practical manner in their daily clinical activities. We’re designing our own that’s based off the national template that [Exercise is Medicine Canada] gave us. We’d like to see it in as many places as possible, including the hospital and our Student Wellness Centre,” he said.
Speaking to the common sentiment among students that they somehow don’t have enough time to exercise, but D’Souza said they might be deterred by a lack of knowledge of where to start.
“If they go to the doctor and he says, ‘You have high blood pressure and you’re overweight…you should exercise more’, they’re at a loss because that’s very general,” said D’Souza.
Von Allmen was also quick to emphasize that Exercise is Medicine does not promote the idea that one should be doing strenuous exercise everyday, something which could intimidate some.
“It can sometimes be as simple as getting involved in intramurals. They are a fun, team-building social activity that has an underlying factor of keeping their participants active for a certain amount of time,” he said.
The group is currently trying to organize an inter-professional education event through the Program for Inter-professional Practice, Education and Research at McMaster. They hope to draw professionals and students from a wide range of disciplines.