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When Amanda Metts arrives at her office in the mornings, she turns on her computer and then gets moving.
Metts has a standing desk and a walking treadmill underneath her desk. Instead of sitting all day, Metts walks as she works.
“You have to get used to doing it,” said Metts, who is Barton College’s assistant vice president for enrollment management. Not only has she lost weight, but walking while she works reduces stress, she said, and increases her energy throughout the day.
Her routine is a part of much larger program the college implemented in 2017 thanks to a $185,00 grant from the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson called Barton FIT, a wellness program for staff and students using a functional and integrative medicine approach to help individuals prevent and reduce obesity. The program took off, and the college received an additional $426,000 grant in 2018 to expand the model, which is now called Wilson FIT.
Dr. Susan Bane, a physician and associate professor of allied health and sport studies at Barton, said the program is built on the principle of empowering individuals to optimize health through modifiable lifestyle factors such as nutrition, movements, stress, sleep, relaxation and healthy relationships.
“Functional medicine is an approach to chronic disease that really examines underlying causes of disease,” Bane said. “In the process of doing that, it tries to empower both the practitioner and the client, or patient, to positive outcomes. Functional medicine is about meeting you where you are.”
“Our health today didn’t happen in the last 24 hours,” she said, explaining that habits and experiences can influence a person’s wellness level over a lifetime.
The program uses a personalized systems-oriented model to address underlying causes of disease and empower participants to take an active role in their own health to make lasting changes.
‘SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING’
When the grant was first implemented, employees like Metts got on board. The initial intake involved lab work, health history collection, fitness testing and DNA testing to determine how participants’ individual bodies work when it comes to prevention and intervention.
“They’ve done everything from your emotional testing to your genetics to blood testing,” Metts said.
Metts started the program more than two years ago. She’s not only lost weight but has the tools to manage her overall health.
“It’s the whole body,” she said.
Barton has challenges among staff each week and an accountability partnership with Kristy Lievense, wellness director for Barton FIT, which also incorporates students.
Barton also has treadmills inside the library where students can take a break from studying.
Krystal Alices, Barton College’s director of admissions, who is also in the program, said she likes the accountability aspect. There are check-ins and also emails with updates on an individual’s smart goals.
“The accountability piece is really important for someone like myself that needs the extra encouragement and push-through,” Alices said. “It also teaches you things you weren’t thinking about.”
Alices said when she took the genetics test, she discovered she works better with high intensity workouts.
“I didn’t realize my DNA was telling me it works best for me,” she said, adding that it determines which health conditions she is more prone to developing, and she can work on those goals now in prevention.
Metts said for her, walking was one way for her to lose weight that worked. Metts continued to hit her goals and was first given a standing desk as a part of the program. As she continued to hit her goals, she was awarded a walking treadmill that is flat and slides underneath her desk.
Metts said blood pressure issues are hereditary in her family, and that is something she must watch. She said a low-fat, low-carb diet works well for her. Metts said when she first joined the program, something resonated within her.
“They were saying that sitting is the new smoking,” she said. “That got me big-time. And when you start to think about the long-term effects of that because of so much obesity, it’s not healthy.”
Metts said she typically walks 3 to 4 miles each day in the office as she works. She said she would really like to get that up to 6 miles.
Bane said health coaching is a big part of functional medicine practices. Bane and Lievense are certified health coaches and recently took national board exams.
“Health coaches are the most emerging member of the health care team,” Bane said.
Another part of the grant included funding 18 health coaches in Wilson County who have been training through the Functioning Medicine Coaching Academy.
“They bridge that gap between the practitioner and the client for that behavior change that we just expect magically happens to people,” Bane said.
Those health coaches in Wilson are from a wide variety of areas including nurses, faculty at Barton, the YMCA, therapists and health educators.
Lievense said it fills that gap when people leave the doctor’s office not knowing how to exercise or eat right or what to do to get their health back on track.
“The health coach comes along aside them to reach those goals,” she said.
Bane said in the next phase of grant funding, she hopes to have Barton serve as a professional home where the staff can provide resources to health coaches in the community who have now been trained and they can have a network. She envisions connecting health coaches to patients who need their services within the community. Bane said another initiative is to package the prototype program and connecting that to the community.
Bane said health doesn’t happen at the doctor’s office.
“Health happens from the moment we wake up and choices we make all day long,” she said.
Bane said the goal is to provide game-changing activities so that the program that started on campus can be replicated out in the community.