Following the special reporting project “City Limits, a Poverty Project,” by WAER, the next installment, “City Limits: Winds of Change,” will explore a range of social justice issues, including unconscious bias, police reform and what is being done to combat…
New Ways to Make Monday a Fresh Start
If it’s Monday, it’s another new opportunity to improve your life—or someone else’s. And it comes around 52 times a year. That’s how Mary Kate Lee views the health, wellness and lifestyle challenges facing her Syracuse University community. As program coordinator of the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at the Maxwell School, Lee’s role is to provide opportunities to improve individual and community health—and she does it first by listening.
This past year, Lee and her colleagues conducted a survey of faculty, staff and undergraduate and graduate students to better understand their health and wellness concerns and goals. “Getting a sense of the campus climate on issues related to well-being helps inform program development,” says Lee. “There’s research to back up our decisions on programming and to target programs to groups based on their common concerns.”
According to the survey, staff and faculty are united in their primary health and wellness goal—to increase their level of physical activity. “Honestly, I thought the majority of faculty and staff would say their goal was stress reduction,” says Lee. “Maybe they’ve drawn the connections between more exercise and less stress, but their preference to focus on physical activity as a goal was clear in from the results of this survey.” More than 75 percent of staff and more than 80 percent of faculty who responded to the survey cited “increase physical activity/exercise” as their top goal. Students were in agreement, as well.
More than half of faculty and staff also want to improve diet and nutrition, better manage stress, and get more sleep. More than half of staff want to better manage their weight.
“From these results I think we can infer that while on the job, faculty and staff feel like they are pretty sedentary,” offers Lee. “Under Move it Monday, our programmatic goals are to offer practical suggestions and provide support to get them up and moving—getting away from a desk, walking down a hallway, taking frequent stretch breaks or using the stairs. We are going to do that with enhancements to our Heathy Monday programs.”
Sid Lerner ’53, the man whose philanthropy with his wife Helaine helped create the Lerner Center at Syracuse University in 2011, believes in the power of Mondays. There are Monday campaigns at Lerner Centers for Public Health Promotion at Johns Hopkins, Columbia, NYU Langone and Syracuse University. There’s Meatless Monday to encourage people to increase their intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The Syracuse University Lerner Center offers Move it Monday, Monday Miles with a Mission, DeStress Monday Meditation, DeStress Monday Yoga and the DeStress for Success workshop series. What ties these programs together is research, along with some creative marketing.
“Studies tell us that people view Mondays as a fresh start,” says Lee. “Every Monday is a chance to engage in a healthy behavior or kick an unhealthy behavior. This is referred to as the Monday Effect. It has the same feel as a new year’s resolution, but it comes 52 times a year. So if the improvement doesn’t last through the week, all is not lost. You have another Monday to recommit. Monday can be used as a tool to reinforce healthy behaviors, creating long-lasting and sustainable healthy habits.”
Lee cites as an example that walking for 20 minutes on a Monday is a reasonable, approachable goal for most people. That’s the time it takes most people to walk a mile. Over time, that approach can truly make a difference in someone’s overall health. And generalized to an entire community, it can impact overall community and public health. She says the campus community can look for new venues to walk the Monday Mile (protected from the weather elements!).