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Student Health Promotion Committee

For students on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus campus, finding a work-life balance can prove tricky. Between tackling challenging classes and toiling away in the lab, who has time to go to a yoga class, not to mention afford one?

A new student group aims to ease this burden by improving and promoting well-being across campus.

The Office of Student Health Promotion replaced the Office of Student Health Insurance in March 2017, armed with a broader mission of creating a healthy campus culture. However, one key component was missing: student involvement. In response, the Student Health Promotion Committee was formed this past fall.

Finding student voices

“We needed to hear from the people we were serving,” said Jill Collins, RD, Student Health Promotion manager at CU Anschutz. “So, we decided to get a group of motivated students together to brainstorm ideas. We have a member from just about every school and college.”

The group, which is 40-members strong, meets monthly during fall and spring semesters. Members share ideas and create initiatives focused on making a healthy lifestyle accessible for the campus community, whether it’s providing free lunchtime group fitness classes or sponsoring a stress-reduction workshop.

The new Student Health Promotion Committee hopes to bring healthy options to CU Anschutz.

“We’re a campus dedicated to health and medical sciences,” said Kelsey Robinson, a first-year MPH candidate in the Colorado School of Public Health and communications chair of the new group. “We need to take the time to focus on ourselves. This group is a step in the right direction for connecting students to healthy lifestyles on campus.”

Being part of the larger office offers the student committee a centralized location for promoting health-related events on campus, Robinson said. “We are networking with other health groups on campus, and would love to promote any other free, health-related events on campus,” she said, such as peer support groups and charity 5Ks.

Setting data-driven goals

To focus its mission, the group used data collected from the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), a national survey tool created and used by the American College Health Association, to collect precise, current data about students.


CU Anschutz students interested in joining the Student Health Promotion Committee for the 2018-2019 school year should contact Jill Collins at

“We wanted to make sure we provided services and initiatives that students wanted and needed,” Collins said. “The survey overwhelmingly showed that we needed to focus on improving nutrition, mental health and fitness.” Three corresponding committees were formed, each with its own short- and long-term goals. For instance:

  • The nutrition branch set a goal of providing healthy alternatives in the vending machines on campus.
  • The mental health branch made a goal of providing more opportunities for students to receive mental health support and skill development, such as “lunch-and-learn” student-run discussion panels featuring health professionals.
  • And the physical activity branch aims to provide free fitness classes in public spaces on campus. The classes would be drop-in and open to any students on campus looking to get their blood pumping.

“Look for events happening this semester,” Robinson said, adding that news and activities will be promoted on its Instagram page (@anschutz_shpc), its website, and through a weekly feature of the Division of Student Affairs’ “Campus Happenings” emails.  “We’re moving quickly and will be implementing changes on this campus before you know it.”

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METHOD fitness app prescribes personalized exercise as medicine

The patient breathes harder as his workout intensifies. His metabolic fingerprint – heart rate, oxygen level and other data – streams onto a tablet in the form of a colorized digital bar that shows exactly what his muscles are doing and the fuels he’s burning.

Nicholas Edwards at CU Anschutz
Nicholas Edwards is the director of Exercise-Medicine Integration in the Department of Family Medicine at the CU School of Medicine.

“In the purple zone he’s stressing his anaerobic system, and in the red he’s going to burn muscle mass if he stays up there too long,” says Nicholas Edwards, director of Exercise-Medicine Integration in the Department of Family Medicine, CU School of Medicine. “The blue here represents his prime zone, where he performs best during exercise and creates the most energy, so he’s safely burning the most pound for pound right at this second.”

Edwards is also co-founder and chief scientific officer of METHOD, a CU spinoff company, that is proving to be a health game-changer by connecting exercise to medicine. The system gives thousands of pro athletes and patients access to individualized, real-time metabolic information that, when combined with a prescribed fitness regimen, builds strength and stamina, reduces injury, sheds weight and improves their response to treatment.

‘Medically based fitness plan’

METHOD app shows individualized biometric data
The METHOD app shows individualized, real-time metabolic information of athletes and patients.

These metabolic data points help tailor regimens to a specific physiology – whether the person be a pro athlete, weekend warrior or couch potato – to provide healthy outcomes across the continuum of care. “It’s literally like a medically based fitness plan,” says Edwards, who three years ago launched METHOD with an eye toward college and pro athletes. Among the first users were elite athletes who were patients in the Ascent Program at the Center for Dependency, Addiction, and Rehabilitation (CeDAR). The METHOD system has expanded to thousands of patients and athletes, including the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, NFL teams as well as fitness facilities and centers for orthopedics and physical therapy from coast to coast.

Besides being a breakthrough approach –  making exercise a prescribed medicine – the METHOD app is a testament to the collaborative innovations regularly occurring on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Family Medicine owns a stake in the enterprise, which was assisted in its launch by CU Innovations. “We collaboratively worked on a system that covers the spectrum – orthopedics through physical therapy to human performance,” says Edwards, who has two business partners.

“Previously, there was nothing that quantified what a person in the gym, the rehab center or the weight room is doing metabolically in real-time,” he says. “Anaerobic exercise was a guess. Through METHOD, we’ve been able to identify somebody’s unique metabolic fingerprint to know what’s going on physiologically as they exercise.”

‘It’s been amazing’

Dan, a patient at UCHealth, went through the three stages of the METHOD system – evaluation, prescription for exercise, and monitoring – under Edwards’ supervision. Dan is a high-level crossfit competitor and works as a paramedic, so he understands the value of physiological data such as heart rate and energy thresholds. “Using the METHOD data, Nick built a training program specific to my capabilities that matched my heart rate and everything,” Dan says. “It’s been amazing. I’ve gotten stronger, faster and more physically fit in the last month and a half than I’ve done on my own, just kind of blind training, over the last year.”

‘This system really dials everything in.’– Nicholas Edwards, METHOD chief scientific officer

Meanwhile, people on the other end of the spectrum, the sedentary and obese, often tell Edwards they don’t know how to workout, feel pain when exercising or are simply intimidated. “The great thing about this system is we’re able to give them specific parameters to know exactly where they should exercise, the exact kind of exercise, and when to start and stop, so they change their body in a healthy and safe way,” he says. “This system really dials everything in.”

Because the app loads onto smartphones and synchs with heart rate monitors, it’s able to monitor whether a user is staying in a metabolic zone too long. “The phone will literally buzz and tell them to speed up or slow down their workout,” Edwards says. “The app has built-in coaching mechanisms across the board.”

‘Solidify best practices’

And the app acts as massive data repository that allows clinicians to view real-time data from users around the country. “I can monitor somebody on an exercise prescription in Maine or in Southern California and compare their outcomes to somebody here in Colorado,” says Edwards, who played college football at North Dakota State and is a former mixed martial professional. “Our goal is to solidify best practices over time.”

Colorado Avalanche and METHOD
The Colorado Avalanche use the METHOD system to monitor and analyze the metabolic fingerprint of each player in order to achieve optimum fitness.

Improved outcomes mean athletes get back on the ice or field faster, while patients, either those recovering from surgery or just going through physical therapy, return to their normal lives sooner, Edwards says. “The big payoff is that by optimizing patient outcomes we’re lowering the cost of care, because you’re eliminating guesswork and duplication of services.”

Ditching a worn-out formula

For example, METHOD renders obsolete the timeworn 220-minus-your-age formula for determining a person’s maximum heart rate. Edwards gives the example of a 55-year-old couch potato and a former pro hockey player of the same age. “If you do that old formula, they should exercise the exact same way, which is ludicrous,” he says. “We need to find something different that’s happening with that individual every single day, and that’s what we do with METHOD.”

When not directly coaching athletes and patients through exercise regimens, Edwards speaks about the benefits of METHOD and proper training across the U.S. at the NFL Combine, behavioral health and strength and conditioning conferences and other events. He notes that the system is “really starting to catch fire” as more people turn to individualized exercise regimens.

Edwards says METHOD will further elevate CU SOM’s stature as a global leader in innovation, wellness and health care outcomes. “We’re developing a lasting change – to make medicine and exercise collaborate long term.”

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