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UCOL and iWorkWell together

30 August 2011

UCOL and iWorkWell together

UCOL Exercise & Sport Science students and staff are encouraging scores of local people to take a close interest in their own health and wellbeing.

The team of 28 third year Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science students and their lecturers are involved in the testing, and repeat testing, of 250 staff from businesses in the Manawatu over the next year. Initial testing has just been completed.

UCOL have been contracted by the MidCentral District Health Board to evaluate the Sport Manawatu iWorkWell programme, to determine the effectiveness of this programme on improving health. This research project is being led by UCOL researchers Dr. Lukas Dreyer and Dr. Sonja Dreyer.

The Sport Manawatu iWorkWell project is a comprehensive workplace wellness pilot project that works with workplaces to create environments that support staff to change their behaviour patterns and choose more healthy lifestyles. With initial testing completed by UCOL, Sport Manawatu will now be working closely with those businesses who have signed up to be part of the pilot project.

The assessments undertaken by the UCOL Exercise & Sport Science team take into account physical and psychological changes, stress and exercise. Health status and risk factors are derived from health screening. The project evaluates the workplace and health changes of employees from 10 local businesses who have signed up to the iWorkWell project. It not only provides data for analysis and future research, but has personal benefits for the participants.

Four hundred people from 10 businesses were given an initial health screening and wellness questionnaire. From this large group, 150 people were randomly selected to take part in a physical fitness assessment. Those individuals and an additional 100 people will be retested in December and again in July next year.

UCOL Exercise & Sport Science Senior Lecturer and co-lead researcher, Dr Sonja Dreyer says the iWorkWell project has captured a variety of people, with different degrees of fitness, of diverse ethnicities and age. “We have everyone from lawyers to labourers, from age 20 to 60 years.”

All the testing is carried out at UCOL’s Exercise and Sport laboratories. Each staff member receives an individual result report after the testing that includes the individual’s BMI, body composition, VO2max, blood pressure and heart rate responses to exercise.

Dr Sonja Dreyer says the programme is a great learning tool and confidence boost for the third year students. “They begin to believe in their own ability and knowledge and soon realize they are able to answer most of the questions their clients may ask.”

“It is great practical experience for the students and an effective way to bring all the theory to life,” she says.

HR Administrator for the Manawatu District Council (MDC), Bridget Simpson says the staff members participating in the programme have been impressed with the students’ professional approach and the quality of the information they have received.

“The students doing the measuring made us feel comfortable and relaxed. A hard thing to do when having your love handles measured!” says Bridget.

She says the overall experience was less stressful than they expected and the staff members participating from the MDC are looking forward to the next round of testing.

In addition to individual reports, each business is issued a company overview at the end of each assessment round.

The Exercise & Sport Science students will now also assist Sport Manawatu with in-house activities aimed at promoting good health within the businesses.

Dr Dreyer says, “More and more businesses are hearing about iWorkWell and want to become involved.”

Third year UCOL Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science students are also involved in assessing the Green Prescription initiative. The students are helping with testing the effectiveness of the ten week programme aimed at people that have been ‘prescribed’ exercise by their doctor. This service is also run by Sport Manawatu.

During these evaluations the students get the opportunity to engage with a sector of the community that they would not find in a gym or on the sports field,” says Exercise and Sport Science Academic Leader Dean Rankin. “This is an invaluable experience for the students.”


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