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Project Life Change

By: Jennifer S. Riggleman

Davis and Elkins College

Project Life Change:

Davis and Elkins College Sports Science Department launched a brand new program called Project Life Change
in the fall of 2013. This 16 week program was designed to improve overall health specifically targeting weight
management with exercise and nutrition. Participants were primarily from the Elkins, WV community and the campus
community, and met once per week with the Sport Science Department staff presenting health information. The
participants were given free access to the on-campus facility, The Robbins-Madden Fitness Center, and to the Elkins
YMCA during the duration of the program. Fifty-two participants started the program and 33 completed the full 16 weeks.
Those 33 clients lost a total of 208 pounds, averaging 7.1 pounds per person. Participant comments were extremely
positive at the conclusion of the program including how much knowledge they had gained about their health, how to
exercise, and how to deal with stress. This program was made possible by a grant from the Snowshoe Foundation.

Project Life Change began as a way for the Sports Science Department at Davis and Elkins College to reach out to
the community. Davis and Elkins College is a small liberal arts college nestled in the hills of West Virginia in Elkins and is
home to 850 students. Elkins is a small town of approximately 7,180 residents, with the average age 39.6 years old and
average median household income of $31,561 (Elkins, WV, 2012). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (2012) ranked
West Virginia third in the nation in adult obesity with 32.5% of the population being classified as obese, and 67.4%
classified as overweight. The CDC further stated that only 30.6% of adults in WV participated in moderate physical
activity on a regular basis. 71.9% of adults ate less than the recommended servings of fruits per day, and 85.5% ate less
than the recommended servings of vegetables per day in the state.
Armed with these statistics, the Sport Science Department ran a needs assessment survey to gauge interest and
need for a program such as Project Life Change. This electronic survey was administered in January and February of
2013 to the entire Davis and Elkins College community, including faculty, staff, and students, and to the Community
Wellness Database at Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins, WV. The survey was approved through the Institutional Review
Board at Marshall University and the results were presented at the National Social Sciences Association (NSSA)
conference in Las Vegas in March 2013.

The results showed a total of 224 respondents, 44% college students, 29% community members, and 26% faculty
and staff. Demographic categorization of respondents were 96% white with 31% having an income between $25,000 and
$50,000 and 31% between $50,000 and $99,000.
Activity levels of responses showed that 25.7% were not exercising at all and 29.4% were only exercising
sometimes. The majority, 62.2% were walking when they did exercise. 33% were weight lifting, and 30.1% were jogging
for their activity. Nutritional questions showed 46.1% eating fast food at least once per week and 21% ate fast food two or
more times per week.
In an attempt to gauge interest, 54% stated that they wanted to lose 20 pounds or more, 18% wanted to lose 20-39
pounds, and 11.1% stated that they wanted to lose 40 or more pounds. 54% of those who wanted to lose weight stated
that they wanted to lose in order to feel better. When asked what the primary obstacle to healthy living was, 27.8% said it
was lack of time, and 36% said it was no access to facilities or equipment. 56.2% of respondents said they were
somewhat interested in a program such as Project Life Change and 18.6% were very interested. The top three topics
respondents thought would be most beneficial in a program were Exercise, 57.3%, Diet 51.2% and Cooking 47.7%.
The Sport Science Department applied for a grant through the Snowshoe Foundation for funding for Project Life
Change. The mission of the Snowshoe Foundation is: To seek to enhance the quality of life in our local communities

through assisting local organizations and / or individuals in areas of health, human services, education, recreation, the
arts, culture and the environment, with an emphasis on children, youth and family program (Snowshoe Foundation,
2012). The mission of Project Life Change was To prepare and inspire individuals for success in healthy living. The
program mission aligned well with the mission for the Snowshoe Foundation, and the Department was awarded a $5,000
grant to begin the program.

In April of 2013 an article was printed in the local paper, The Intermountain, about the Sport Science Department
receiving the grant from the Snowshoe Foundation, and included the format and timeline for the program. In July of 2013,
another article was printed announcing an informational open house in early August that was open for anyone to attend.
There were no age limits placed on the program. Announcements and brochures were printed and placed on campus
and emails were sent announcing the beginning of the program to the entire campus community.

Project Life Change began on Monday August 26, 2013. Initial physical assessments of participants happened the
following week (Week 2) and included weight, blood pressure, BMI, body fat (using BIA), and waist/hip ratio.

The follow-

up assessments were done again during week 15 and included the same measurements.
The class met every Monday evening for one hour with varying educational health topics presented. Participants were
given free access to the Robbins-Madden Fitness Center, located on D&Es campus, and to the Elkins YMCA during the
16 week course. Topics included were:

Nutrition 101
Activity Guidelines
Nutrition: Presented by Jim Severino, Dietician Davis Memorial Hospital
Three Cooking Classes throughout the program
Psychological Aspects of Health Presented by Marge Moses, Director of Community
Wellness, Davis Memorial Hospital
6. A 5K Forest Festival Walk/Run
7. Diabetes Education
8. Muscular Strength and Endurance
9. Cardiovascular Disease
10. Surviving the Holidays
11. Activity Night Participants selected Water Aerobics, Exercise Bands, or CardioJam
12. Wrap-up

There were 52 participants initially that started the program, and 33 completed the entire 16 weeks. Those 33 clients
lost a total of 208 pounds, averaging 7.1 pounds per person. Three of the 33 completers gained weight and 30 lost at
least a pound. A total of 39.5 inches were lost from participants waists, and 31 inches from their hips. The participants
were given a survey at the end of the program, and these were some of the comments from them:
a) I am more conscious of my calorie intake
b) This is my first time doing aerobics, and I loved it!
c) I am getting better cooking ideas and eating habits.
d) I am doing more physical activities and am spending less time sitting.
e) Made going to the gym easier with memberships.
e) I am enjoying that everyone is helpful and supportive with any and all questions.
f) The upbeat way material is presented it is applicable to all ages and fitness levels.
g) It has certainly helped me with dealing with stress.

Project Life Change was a success for the 33 participants that completed the entire program. Even for those that
gained weight, they told the Sport Science staff that they simply had not incorporated what they had learned into their
daily routine, but felt the information they had learned was invaluable. One of the objectives of the program was for each
participant to lose 12 pounds during the course of the program, and that goal was not achieved. The educational
component, however, was achieved with participants being able to identify risk factors for cardiovascular disease and
identify ways to avoid them. Participants were also encouraged to use My Fitness Pal, or Lose It app among others for
them to begin using on their mobile devices to track diet and activity.
Project Life Change is not an exercise program by design, therefore, participants must incorporate lifestyle
changes outside of the once per week meetings provided. Implementation of this is key for individual success. The Sport
Science Department is pursuing a partnership with Geopalz to use their iBitz pedometers with participants for the next
course which will begin in August of 2014. This would allow the staff to track activity levels of participants more closely to
analyze and provide encouragement. The Department will also take a closer look at individual dietary habits of
participants to identify trouble areas for each person. The length of the program is being considered as well and may be
shortened to decrease attrition.

Elkins, WV. (2012). Retrieved from City Data: http://www.city-data.com/city/Elkins-West-Virginia.html
Snowshoe Foundation. (2012). Retrieved from Snowshoe Foundation:
West Virginia State Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Profile. (2012). Retrieved from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: