Bringing Healthy Back

New initiatives, recognition highlight University commitment to wellness

Last fall, the Academy for a Healthy Iowa presented Drake University the “Healthy Iowa College/University Award,” recognizing a long-term, strategic commitment to physical, mental and emotional health on campus.  This month, Drake unveils its newest brick in the wellness wall: Underground Fitness.

A brand new addition to the Olmsted Center, Underground Fitness will provide a free and convenient exercise resource for students. The center fills an unused space of the former Terrace Court dining hall, breathing new life into the bottom floor of Olmsted and alleviating pressure on the university’s Bell Center recreation facility.

“I think it’s a great addition to the Olmsted Center,” says Doug Brady, a sophomore marketing and accounting major. “Not only is the new facility more convenient and accessible to the student population living in dorms, it also eases the demand for cardio equipment in the Bell Center. As the temperature drops, the need for these indoor fitness facilities increases exponentially.”

Underground Fitness, and the award that preceded it, reflect a broad movement toward wellness at Drake. Jana Peterson, the University’s wellness director, points to a combination of senior-level administrative support and campus community participation as integral contributors to the award.

“The inclusion of creating a culture of wellness as part of the strategic plan was instrumental in receiving this title,” Peterson says. “Drake wellness also works with a community that participates. Without engagement from the campus community, this recognition would not be possible.”


Beyond the body

Over the past several years, broad changes have bolstered the University’s commitment not only to physical health, but also to mental and emotional wellness. New policies, such as community service leave for employees, aim to improve the balance between work and life. New positions such as the coordinator of student wellness education and the coordinator for sexual violence response and healthy relationship promotion enhance the student experience. Free programming —including one-on-one fitness testing, exercise program design consultations, a wellness lunch series and group exercise classes — also contributes to the success of Drake’s efforts to foster healthy lifestyles.

Drake’s Athletics Department has prepared a new concept for expanding and revitalizing the university’s existing sports and recreation facilities. Fundraising has begun with the goal of completing construction in the next few years. The plan would provide vastly superior workout space for Drake students, Drake athletes, and professional track and field competitors alike.


Recognizing the commitment

Initiatives like these have proven popular: 89 percent of Drake employees participate in at least one wellness program offering each year, and the “Healthy Iowa” designation is well-deserved recognition.

The Academy for a Healthy Iowa is a collaboration between the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Nutrition and the Wellness Council of Iowa. Award winners are selected based on providing access to wellness programming, financial commitment, measurability and sustainability. Winners retain the “Healthy Iowa” designation for three years, at which point they must reapply.

Drake University was recognized at the Healthy Iowa Awards held on October 20 at the Hy-Vee Conference Center in West Des Moines. Eleven Iowa businesses were designated Wellness Council of America “Well Workplaces,” and 13 communities, schools and leaders were recognized.

Peterson anticipates integrating ideas from the Healthy Iowa Conference into future wellness initiatives. Each academic year, Drake Wellness offers a new program designed by its staff.

“I am looking forward to creating and implementing programming for the Drake campus based on new research and ideas presented at the conference,” she says.

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