by Laura Maginley
Students at Montgomery County Community College have the unique opportunity to cross an item off of their personal health checklist by enrolling in the Exercise Science & Wellness course “Personal Health and Wellness Education” (ESW235).
In conjunction with the course’s textbook, students are asked to develop a plan to change a particular health behavior or habit and incorporate objectives from the corresponding chapters. According to Associate Professor Georgette Howell, students in the course have targeting such behaviors and habits as meditation, flossing, caffeine, sleep and smoking.
Each plan must include five elements to ensure success: action, contingency, measurement tools, reward systems and maintaining efforts. These enable the students to truly evaluate what obstacles may occur during the process and what they would like to ultimately accomplish. Additionally, each student must research pre-existing information on his or her chosen topic and must keep a daily journal to record the progress. The project counts for 25 percent toward a student’s final grade.
Howell cites that quitting smoking is among the most extreme behavioral changes tackled by students during this project .
“Lung and bronchus cancers are the number one cause of death among all cancer patients, and students can lower their risk for heart disease in the first few minutes of breaking the habit,” she said.
Many of the students enrolled in this course take a ride on the emotional rollercoaster once the course is over, including Sheila MacDonald, an Office Administration and Computer Systems major. MacDonald made several previous attempts to quit smoking without success.
“My addiction was not only physical but deeply physiological. I honestly couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t smoke,” she shared.
MacDonald selected smoking for her ESW behavioral change project and went through hypnosis. While the cravings and mood swings were apparent, she used meditation to remain calm throughout the process. She also found that sharing her experiences with other students and receiving feedback throughout the course helped her emotionally.
“The course as a whole was very reflective and really made me take a long hard look at my health and well being,” she said.